Based in Northern New Mexico, Estevan Maestas is a young art enthusiast turned gallerist and founder of the emerging online gallery, Contemporary Collective Gallery. Estevan founded the gallery in 2015 with a vision to create a global platform to showcase new, up and coming contemporary artists from around the world. His goal is to invite and encourage his audience to connect with, support and invest in living artists.
Deianira Tolema: You are a young entrepreneur as there are many out there, however, you caught my attention for your spirit of initiative and the quality of the work displayed on your website. How did you come up with the idea to create an online contemporary art gallery? Who did you take inspiration from for your project?
Estevan Maestas: The gallery’s conception came about when my brother asked for my help in promoting his work. I’m more of the social network savvy one, so he asked me if I had any ideas on how to promote and get his work in front of a wider audience. Undertaking the project to promote my brother’s work gave me this sense of creativity, in the process of curating and presenting. This is also when I started establishing my own identity and aesthetic, which has now become the gallery you see today.
DT: How did you build your company step by step?
EM: The gallery started out very small, initially the ‘website’ was a simple Tumblr page. I started utilizing Instagram to showcase works and connect with art lovers, artists and potential collectors. As I started seeing a greater interest from artists on Instagram who were curious about representation, I recognized greater potential as an online gallery. I developed a professional digital presence and launched the official online gallery in January 2015.
DT: Please describe what is a typical Contemporary Collective Gallery day from morning to evening: how do you set your weekly goals, deal with brainstorming, etc.?
EM: Starting my day consists of checking emails and Instagram as those are my two main lines of communication between collectors, artists and collaborators. Social media is so very important for this reason, and I’m frequently accused of being on my phone too much but that’s where the interaction between the gallery and other creative groups takes place! Given that everything gallery related is almost exclusively run on my phone, I have incredible flexibility to work on the go and travel freely.
DT: How does one curate an online exhibition, and how do people perceive a gallery located in a virtual space that can’t be walked through, but only imagined?
EM: When I introduce a new artist’s work or new series into the gallery, I give them the freedom of choice on what work they wish to present. The curation is a conversation between the artist and the gallery, and that relationship flows smoothly making the process easier.
In terms of how people perceive an online gallery, I think it encourages people to examine and explore the works and the artist at a much deeper level. When you can’t be physically present with the work, it makes you enter this state of wanting to see and know more about it. It pushes people to do the research and become more involved until they’ve satisfied this curiosity and have become more informed.
DT: Do potential buyers trust you enough to buy your products without seeing them in person, or how does it work?
EM: As a newer online platform, this is a challenge I see the gallery facing. The younger generation is certainly embracing this type of art acquisition, whereas the more traditional collectors might be skeptical. When it becomes less tangible, I think it may bring about a sense of uncertainty and distrust. Transparency is key and I try to be very up-front with clients about the gallery’s methods and business practices. We want our clients to know that we are all about supporting living artists and that buying a piece from the gallery is instrumental in the continuation of their work.
DT: The artists you have been showcasing, though, are very real: Aaron Scheer, Maxwell Rushton, George Raftopoulos, and others. How do you choose your artists? Is it a matter of demands and sales, or is there more to it than that?
EM: I am very honored to be working with such an incredible international group of artists – emerging and established. The selection of artists for the gallery is not completely driven by demand or sales. I look for artists with a unique style, such as Maxwell Rushton. The diverse group of artists I work with bring a distinct quality, in their respective styles, to the gallery which is exactly what I’ve endeavored to accomplish.
DT: Are you planning to turn your gallery into a brick-and-mortar venue any time soon? Does it make sense for art magazines to be on paper or for galleries to be three-dimensional, or is the future a place conceived for abstract ideas only? Do we still need art to manifest itself as a full range sensory experience?
EM: I’ve entertained the idea of short-term pop-up exhibitions which I believe is a great alternative to committing to a physical space. I love the idea of having flexibility in choosing venues depending on the atmosphere that suits an exhibition.
Regarding the line between physicality and the digital space in publications and galleries, I believe the future will still hold room for both. Even though the world is embracing the transition to everything becoming digital these days, there’s still that issue with tangibility. There will always be a nostalgia for things we can possess physically. Now with art entering the digital era, it’s making it incredibly more accessible to the public than ever before. I think this is great because it will only serve to inspire a new generation of artists and a new way of thinking about art and how we perceive it. I think it could very well be the start of a new renaissance period.