Before the COVID-19 pandemic sparked unprecedented growth in digital and e-commerce industries, Israeli entrepreneurs Sarah Peguine and Michal Freedman were already responding to requests from members of the international art community to purchase Israeli art without being physically in the country.
The dynamic duo behind Source of art, an online platform offering advice to potential buyers interested in Israel’s best contemporary works of art, was looking for ways to meet growing demand.
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“Even before COVID, we really saw a demand from the community. We saw that people interested in being a part of the Israeli art world, supporting Israeli artists and collecting Israeli art, needed an avenue to do so without moving here, ”Freedman said.
Their latest effort, an online store and website devoted to Israeli design named Handle with Care, was created to help buyers learn about the burgeoning Israeli design scene and give them the opportunity to add it to their collections.
The website was officially launched two months ago.
“We started to see this demand for Israeli design. There’s this global trend that’s been going on for years, where the lines between fine art and functional design have blurred. We see a lot of ceramic art and all those tailor-made items that are functional items but also design pieces. We have started to see a greater demand for it. We wanted to give Israeli designers the same platform and opportunity that we were able to achieve with Art Source, ”Freedman told NoCamels.
The idea blossomed before COVID-19, but the pandemic struck and the pair had to take a break for a while. “We had to readjust and that delayed our plans a bit, but it also really strengthened the concept because everyone can be okay with it, you know, staying at home we saw an increase in purchases in line and an effort on the aesthetics of the home. So it was, once again, in the right place at the right time, because we have already started working on it, ”she adds.
Handle With Care offers a number of unique pieces that blur the lines between art and design. There are plush toys, cushions, wall hangings and other Tel Aviv home decor items Studio Nama, an independent textile design studio founded by designer Na’ama Ben Moshe in 2017. Designed and handcrafted, these bright and whimsical designs in cheerful colors bring a “touch of joy” to the home. There are vases, bowls, cups and other pieces inspired by ancient Middle Eastern motifs produced by Avi Ben Shoshan, founder of ABS studio. One of them is painstakingly designed to resemble a female figurine. The online store also offers fine art jewelry and other bold accessories, including bags, socks, scarves and quilts from designers such as Gily Ilan, Tal Drori and IOTA. They also offer a number of high quality original prints as well as prints by Israeli illustrator Cookie Moon. These limited edition prints make art accessible to those who could afford a larger painting or sculpture.
While the goal is to expand the reach of Israeli design internationally while serving as a place of discovery and support for Israeli designers, Peguine and Freedman also wanted their store to include designs that address creating positive change. to social challenges.
“One of the things that was important to us with Handle With Care was to have a social impact brand,” says Freedman, “We are honored to collaborate with Kuchinate [a collective of African asylum-seeking women living in Tel Aviv who design and crochet products for sale.] We work with them in a completely non-profit setting where all profits from their sales go directly to the non-profit organization that benefits women asylum seekers from Africa here in Tel Aviv. “
The online store also features brands such as IOTA, which promotes women in low-income communities around the world, providing them with mentoring and training programs and Mekomit, which promotes women in the arts, with part of all sales donated to the Association for Women. Research on art and genre in Israel.
Something for the locals
According to Freedman and Peguine, both Handle With Care and Art Source also offer something to locals who may not know how to navigate the art world or who were unable to visit their favorite galleries during the crisis. COVID-19.
“We reached new audiences – local audiences – during COVID,” says Peguine, “I think because people were missing from the gallery and wanted to have that artistic experience while they were at home. And also, they wanted to find new works of art to connect with. “
The making of Art Source
For Peguine, creating Handle With Care and Art Source was a new way to promote the idea behind Oh So Arty, a blog and platform she created in 2008 to make Israeli art more accessible. The platform, which today helps art lovers organize tours with local guides in cities around the world, was established in Israel after quitting his job at Dvir Gallery in Tel Aviv. It was while on an art tour in Tel Aviv that Pegin met Freedman, then director of the Gordon Gallery with whom she quickly developed a connection.
“After the tours, people would contact me when they returned to Tel Aviv after a few years, but there has never been a follow-up like this. So Art Source really made sense… you can have a community and that community can go back and see and explore Israeli art without even coming to Israel. So that was positive, in a way, during COVID for us. And also now that they [visitors] not been here for a year. More than a year. But we expect tourism to be stronger. “
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Art Source, founded in 2018 as a platform to provide exclusive access to contemporary Israeli art by leading and emerging artists, has an online website, magazine and podcast in English with exclusive content as well as a social media tracking.
The Handle With Care website includes the online store as well as a journal featuring interviews with Israeli art and design experts such as Israeli fashion curator and historian Yaara Keydar. Handle with Care Instagram tracking is almost as strong, but Peguine and Freedman are excited to see their community grow.
“I’m glad we were able to build something during a very difficult time. A lot of people tell us that was what they expected. People want to support Israeli creators and Handle With Care – because they are designer items and the prices are more affordable and accessible than fine art awards – has helped us expand our reach to even more audiences ” , says Freedman.