When, last year, many art colleges and academies had to cancel their tours and annual exhibitions due to the pandemic or switch to digital, the concern among art students in Germany was great: how to find access to an art market that was not least discovered at such events and based on the trust that has been built up in the process? Erich Reich's idea for a “student art market” - an internet platform for art students - filled the gap that had opened up for many young artists at the beginning of their careers. With this online marketplace for works from art schools, he has created an opportunity for students to offer their works online and without high commission.Since then, the business model has helped quite a few young artists through the crisis.

Kevin Hanschke

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The 27-year-old Reich, who was born in Bremen and is currently studying business administration in Leipzig, himself comes from a family of artists. His grandmother was a glass painter, his father is a stone sculptor, and his grandfather was active in the art market with a gallery in Switzerland. His brother, who studies fine arts, gave him the idea of ​​creating a student art platform. "It was my goal to give everyone the opportunity to present their art and sell it online," says Reich from his small Leipzig office. At the beginning, in 2019, the offer was aimed in particular at students of the Saxon art colleges. A few months later, the University of the Arts and the Weißensee Art College in Berlin were added. Reich traveled through other studios and academies and was looking for colleagues.Many explanations were necessary, especially at the beginning: It was a hurdle to get art students excited about the project, he says. Many were skeptical, especially because it would in principle make galleries obsolete as mediators of art. As soon as the first picture was sold, word got around through the art colleges. The student art market now has 170 artists from Germany in its portfolio, as well as from Austria, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.But word got around about the art colleges. The student art market now has 170 artists from Germany in its portfolio, as well as from Austria, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.But word got around about the art colleges. The student art market now has 170 artists from Germany in its portfolio, as well as from Austria, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

There are more than 1700 works on the platform, on which an average of one work of art per day has been sold since the first lockdown. It is important for Reich that everyone should have the chance to exhibit their works; painting, photography and sculptures are on offer: “We want to create the lowest possible entry threshold. It's not about the portfolio or previous experience with galleries. ”This is another reason why the platform uses social media. Reich and his team have more than 14,000 followers on Instagram alone. Every day they produce stories there or on Facebook and introduce at least one young, unknown artist. “We want to create an advantage over conventional galleries with the student art market,” says Reich.While galleries often take higher commissions for brokering, especially with younger and lesser-known artists, his project is characterized by a low commission, which is only due if a work has actually been sold. The works on offer are all in the middle price segment up to around 5000 euros.

Franziska Schell, who is studying in Munich in her third semester, has put around ten paintings up for sale on the platform. There are expressive acrylic landscapes and abstract nude studies. Since the start of 2019, she has been able to sell works again and again. “It's a great way to make your own art more visible, even beyond galleries,” she says. Stella Guzmán Schikora, who was born in Mexico in 1998 and has been studying art at the Alanus University near Bonn since 2019, sees it similarly. Her portraits and landscapes cost between 300 and 600 euros. She also appreciates the platform's network: "The student art market helps me network with buyers and other artists and is also a source of inspiration."

When it comes to buyers, Reich shows a mixed picture; young art collectors who want to acquire unusual and as yet unknown positions are the main target group. But traditional collectors have also become aware of the platform. In any case, his credo is to offer high-quality art. Yet he does not believe that the student art market, despite its success in the pandemic, can replace the analogue tours of art schools; Contemporary art is based on trust and real contact. That is why Reich wants to further expand the offer of the student art market and also cooperate with galleries, especially in his hometown of Leipzig: This has worked well so far, around ten of the artists shown were recruited by galleries in 2020.

Reich is currently organizing the first live exhibition of the student art market in the Pittlerwerke in Leipzig. He plans to show around twenty artists there from September 16 to 19. This is a further step for young art students to present their works to a wide audience with little effort, he says. But Erich Reich's dream is bigger: He wants to establish a social network of young artists that can convey them to galleries, scholarship providers and residences and thus pave their way into the German art market. (studenten-kunstmarkt.de)

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