Creating a gallery wall is no easy feat—first, you have to make sure you plan your scheme, and then, you actually have to find your art. While there are several websites and galleries around that make it easier than ever to find affordable art, what do you do when you really just want something specific, but can’t seem to find it anywhere?
This is the dilemma a new startup in the art world, CoCo Gallery, wants to solve. Started by former Bain & Company consultant Vani Krishnamurthy, the purpose of CoCo Gallery is to connect artists with interior designers or individuals looking to find customized art for their homes—and it then works with both artists and customers to make sure they get exactly what they want. This is largely influenced by Krishnamurthy’s own experience when she commissioned her first work of art—a story that still means a lot to her.
“Art has always been a huge influence in my life—I was an Indian classical dancer and studied Indian art and architecture through a US Fulbright Scholarship extensively. It was in India where I first commissioned my own work of art: I wanted a painting of myself as a dancer to commemorate my experience there, and I had fortuitously met a fabulous Indian artist who I thought could bring my vision to life (CoCo Artist Gita H!). I cherished being a part of the creation of that work of art; mostly, I still love that my idea was the artist’s inspiration,” says Krishnamurthy. “That was in 2004, and now, 14 years later, that painting still brings a certain warmth within me every time I walk by it, serving as a reminder of my wonderful adventures in India and a different phase of life. Plus, it’s absolutely beautiful and sits right above my desk, so it’s now the artistic inspiration for this company!”
This experience made Krishnamurthy fall in love with the process of customizable art, and she realized that there was a need for it in the marketplace. “I soon began to realize that many wanted more commission opportunities, but they didn’t enjoy it... nor do they have time for marketing themselves or dealing with the logistics that are associated with it. On the flip side, as I did more research, I found that there was a whole middle market of people who would love the opportunity to order custom art, either for a special occasion or for interior design purposes, but didn’t know where to start (not everyone is fortunate enough to just run into an amazing artist while on an adventure in India!). These are the same people who would get fed up and resort to generic and overpriced prints,” she says. “The primary idea of CoCo Gallery is to connect these individuals with the right artists (ones that they cannot easily find themselves) seamlessly, and to guarantee a wonderful result (by creating more transparency and understanding in the process).”
As a result, CoCo Gallery now commissions over 150 artists from all over the US of varying ages, styles, and backgrounds—but each has been carefully vetted by the team to make sure the customer gets exactly what he or she needs. There are no prints or multiple editions of anything, as everything is created exclusively just for you.
“We believe that more people would buy original art if their own ideas had inspired the artwork. We also know that budgets often run low after other aspects of a space are addressed. It is nearly impossible to find existing artwork that fits the appropriate price range, and at the same time, satisfies design and personal preferences,” explains Krishnamurthy. “CoCo Gallery has sifted through thousands of artist portfolios to find a wide range of highly talented professionals, so we make it easy to find the right artist within the right budget. We also eliminate any stressors regarding unpredictability of the work by checking in with the artist at the appropriate times.”
The process is therefore fairly simple, and doesn’t actually require too much work when it comes to the customer side. “Our clients go onto our site and answer a few quick questions,” says Krishnamurthy. “A CoCo Consultant immediately contacts them through email to better understand what they may be looking for or the types of art that they may like—some clients know exactly what they want; others need a little more help brainstorming. Within 24 to 48 hours, we send them a portfolio of works by three to five CoCo Artists that fit their preferences, budget, and timeline. All of this is complimentary. Once a client chooses an artist, the work begins, and the client is kept in the loop throughout the process. We still give the artist space to create and be innovative, but we make sure the client’s non-negotiable specifications are met, and they end up with a cherished work of art that is personal to them and fits beautifully with their space.”
Commissions are delivered in about four to six weeks, and CoCo also offers framing and installation services. Both the client and the artist are legally protected throughout the entire process, and they have a CoCo Consultant who is always available to help with questions and communication. So, say you wanted something that reminded you of a trip you took in college or simply a beautiful landscape painting, you can get it all—and with prices ranging from $300 to $15,000, you’re bound to find the perfect fit for your budget.
"My team looks for artists that have been full-time professional artists for many years,” says Krishnamurthy. “We review their work to make sure their aesthetic shows a certain type of accessibility to clients (there is a range, of course), and we interview them to make sure they are willing and happy to collaborate with others, able to stick to deadlines, and will work within our guidelines to ensure client satisfaction. In the beginning, it was approaching artists at shows and fairs, doing online research, and reading publications that led us to the right artists. Now, most artists have started to find us!”
So, if you think you’d want something personalized, but don’t really know where to start, Krishnamurthy has some advice for anyone looking to start an art collection for the first time. As she insists, “Art can play a huge role in making your home feel the way you want it to feel, and thus, making you feel the way you want to feel.”
“We encourage people to first identify where in the home they want to have a work of art, and then, how they want that space to feel. How do they use that room? What are they doing in that room, and who is usually with them at the time? Usually, these questions start conjuring personal subjects—places and people that are special to them, symbols that have meaning, colors that put them at ease. It’s a great place to start to figure out how to fill their home with personal, meaningful, and one of a kind works of art that they can cherish forever.
Also, we tell people that it doesn’t matter who the next big artist is, or the genre that everyone is into now. Art isn’t the latest luxury bag on the market, despite how the world tries to market it! Thinking about it in that way will only lead to buying an extremely expensive work of art that you won’t want to see every day after a couple of years—but art is about what you want to look at every day, in your most personal space and in your most personal moments.”
If you want to grab a customized piece of art of your own, CoCo Gallery is offering a 10 percent discount to Domino readers—simply enter the code “Domino10” on the site.
See more art guides:
The Best Websites for Art Lovers on a Budget
The Best Digital Art Displays on the Market Right Now
3 Art Hacks Your Bare Walls Need
Learn to love your inbox again—sign up for Domino’s daily email.