Over the past two weeks, a series of social media posts elegantly piquing the interest of art aficionados in New Zealand have appeared on Instagram and Facebook, all in anticipation of the launch this weekend of a new online art platform, Artfull. It’s been created with a mission to engage and promote contemporary art and artists from New Zealand and get more people into collecting their work.  

Since early 2020, covid has caused considerable disruption in the art world and it was during Auckland’s second lockdown in 2021 that the idea for Artfull was conceived. Jessica Agoston Cleary, who was working at Ivan Anthony Gallery at the time, was chatting with collector and client John Barnett, well known for his involvement in New Zealand film and television and other creative business ventures. They discussed how a lot of exhibitions had been cancelled or postponed, and Barnett wondered what the artists were now working on – and how ideal it would be to be able to find this out from the comfort of home. 

Realising they had stumbled upon a gap in the art market, Agoston Cleary – who has a background in advertising and branding as well as art history – jumped at the chance to work with Barnett to build Artfull as an online platform to promote artists all over the country to new and established collectors. 

The new website brings together a curated selection of creatives – including recent art school graduates as well as established artists who aren’t represented by dealers – and also galleries who may wish to feature artists or exhibitions on the platform.  

Artists already confirmed for Artfull run from senior practitioners such as Paul Hartigan to established mid-career painters such as Pete Wheeler and Elliot Collins and others who are more in the emerging category, such as Chloe June Summerhayes and Natalie Tozer. The site isn’t limited to just painters, either; artists specialising in other mediums are also represented, such as Karen Rubado, who works with recycled and mixed media materials, and sculptor Ashleigh Taupaki. 

Over the past few years, a considerable amount of art purchasing has – through necessity – moved online and collectors are now comfortable operating in this space, so they will be able to buy works instantly on Artfull. The team behind the site have considered the way people think, browse and make decisions and have harnessed the power of technology to help collectors on their buying journey. They can, for example, search by artist, medium, price, or even size. 

Going one step further than a search engine, Artfull will soon be introducing many innovative ways to see art and make it accessible to potential buyers. Among these will be a Virtual Viewing program available on smartphones that will let purchasers see the artwork in the space they are considering it for.

Understanding that art is more than just an image, the platform has been conceived as both a place to buy and as an engaging, immersive experience. There are several ways Artfull plans to do this, but at the heart of it is the desire to bring artists’ stories to life and create a deeper connection between them and collectors, digitally. Artfull is visiting many of the creatives in their studios and will feature videos that give collectors an insight into the artists’ practice. Further insight is provided in the artists’ stories section, through essays and thought pieces discussing the individuals, their practice, and the wider Aotearoa New Zealand arts community. 

The platform will also offer art publications for sale: books about New Zealand and international artists, as well as other art-related topics such as architecture, design and pop culture.

In any conversation with Agoston Cleary about Artfull, it becomes clear this is as much a passion project for her and Barnett as it is a business venture. She is a dedicated advocate for the artists she represents and the stories they tell within their art practice. She is enthusiastic about the role of the arts within New Zealand and about Artfull’s ability to “cross promote” and “cross pollinate” different areas of the art scene. 

Artfull is intended to be not just an online gallery but an entire art experience and one that Agoston Cleary hopes will enrich the art world for many years to come.