Owner of Artiq
Artiq’s Patrick McCrae
Patrick McCrae launched Artiq, his art subscription business, from his childhood bedroom a decade ago. Fast forward to 2019, and the company has a list of clients including top hotels and museums — and has paid more than £ 1m to well- known and emerging artists.
How did you get into the art world?
I started 10 years ago, after I graduated. My mother is an artist and my father has run businesses his entire life. So, I was brought up in an art and business household. In 2009, there were a lot of people taking creative and arts degrees, but traditional forms of funding for the arts is being cut back significantly.
What was the biggest challenge?
Establishing credibility. When I started, I didn’t have any business experience and I had never sold art. I spent the first two years learning the ropes, establishing myself. Also, the original concept, the idea of renting out art, was relatively new.
How long were you a one- man band?
Three years. I worked at a chippy for the first two years in Cambridge until I earned enough money to pay myself a wage. I hired my first full- time employee in 2012. I used to do everything in the business, which our installers now think is hysterical because I’m not overly capable at that side of things.
How does it work with payment to the artists?
The artist makes money when one of their pieces goes in and is on show. If it sells, they make money again. For the rental side of things, we charge our clients a percentage of the overall value of the art collection for a period of time, normally six months or a year. The whole idea of Artiq is to create a sustainable art economy. Artists don’t have salaries and don’t necessarily have stability but often have overheads such as studio space costs and materials.
How do you determine how much businesses pay you?
It depends on the collections. Some clients will take 10 pieces of art and some will take 200 or maybe even 2,000. It’s based on the value of the art.
Who are some of your bigger clients?
The business clients come from across the workplace, hospitality and residential sectors. Our rental clients include Investec, Mayer Brown, Ennismore Sessions House, the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh and Grand Hotel Suisse in Montreux, Switzerland. We also do public- realm projects, such as the one in Paddington Basin, in West London, when we had about 200 little floating light sculptures for mindfulness month in March last year.
What is the split between renting and outright selling of the art?
Almost exactly 50/ 50, in terms of revenue stream. In terms of volume, it’s significantly more from renting.
How many pieces of art does Artiq represent?
We represent around 300 artists from over a dozen countries directly. Then we have a pool of artists we’ve worked with, but don’t represent and that’s in the thousands. We also work with institutions such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the National
Portrait Gallery, The British Museum and The British Library. In total, it’s in excess of 300 million pieces.
How do you go about choosing which artists to work with?
Artiq’s ethos is to work with artists across all stages of their career. Our selection process is symbiotic with the client. Often there will be an interior designer involved and they may have an idea of what they want, but we’ll show them a lot more and maybe push the boundaries a bit.
What advice do you have for young artists trying to make a commercial success?
It’s their business, artists are entrepreneurs. By the basic definition of an entrepreneur, they’re taking something of a certain value, doing something to it and making it more valuable. If they are looking at becoming commercially successful, that’s an important mind shift they need to get into. Presentation is vital, as is consistency and presentation. Don’t submit 50 pieces, submit five, and make sure they’re consistent and beautiful.
What’s your advice for the average consumer buying art as an investment?
You have to really like it because you’re going to have to live with it. If the artist does well long term, fantastic. If not, then I am supporting the cultural heritage of this specific artist in the short term, and hopefully have been able to help them with six months of studio fees.
What’s been the best part of the past decade?
In June this year, we launched the exhibition Queer Frontiers in Soho. It was an exhibition of about 25 LGBTQ and ally artists from a huge international spread: Brazil, Spain, Eastern Europe, Camden and Bristol. We raised £ 27,000 for the Albert Kennedy Trust. The event was supported by Hiscox Insurance and Robert Hiscox spoke at our opening. He’s a big deal in the art world.
How have your experiences as a gay man influenced your business- management style?
We got the whole team together in 2017 to create a culture guide to identify what it meant to work at Artiq. Fundamentally, it has seven points and one is inclusivity. We have a very open and inclusive culture. We also give people the opportunity to question the directors at our quarterly meetings.
Plus, we always pay people to work. That may sound obvious to most people, but unpaid internships are endemic in the arts and cultural industries, or doing work just for the exposure. Not good, either way. We pay the living wage for those who join our formal internship programme, which runs annually. We also practise what we preach, so downstairs in the communal working space with the other offices in the building, we have an exhibition that changes every three months. Our next collection is called Gaze and is by female and non- binary artists. We want to highlight different communities with art.
What challenges do you forsee Artiq facing?
At the moment, it’s lovely and great and we’re growing quickly. We grew 42 per cent last year and we intend on growing at the same rate this year. But one of the big challenges is going to be maintaining the sort of team dynamic and culture as we gain more people and we do more international work.
“I worked at a chippy until I’d earned enough to pay myself a wage”