Philanthropist, actor, artist, and collector Portia de Rossi created General Public to bridge the gap between the decorative and the fine art market. “Although many folks have an appreciation of art and would like to own good works by good artists, not everyone wants to learn about the art market or they find collecting—and the galleries—intimidating,” she said.
With 3-D scanning and special Synograph printing techniques, General Public creates reproductions of original works by hand-selected emerging and established painters.
To hear more about General Public and its partnership with RH, working with technology, and her own collection, Whitewall spoke with de Rossi.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about General Public and its art curation and publishing endeavors.
PORTIA DE ROSSI: We developed a print, called a Synograph, that is an almost identical reproduction of the original painting-complete with texture. The Synograph provides folks with an alternative to collecting paintings and the flat poster-like print. This proprietary technology and our professional curation is how we bridge the gap.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about General Public’s partnership with RH?
PDR: Working with RH has been exciting because it gives us the opportunity to push our size limits. For our first collection, we were able to choose artists who make big, bold, beautiful works that really engage with a room. It is a truly collaborative process—they look to us for art that makes an impact but also flows nicely with their furniture, and we are in turn being provided a beautifully curated space to give artists an opportunity to show their work in a completely unique venue outside of the traditional gallery.
WW: Can you tell us about the unique 3-D scanning and printing technologies General Public uses?
PDR: In order to provide folks with a true alternative to the current printing methods, I knew that I needed to gather experts in the tech world and in printing to help me figure out how to accomplish my goals. I began with the idea that if we can 3-D print solid objects, it should be easier to print a painting.
I discovered that it wasn’t because of the degree of resolution needed to reproduce the subtleties of brushstrokes and the nuances of color. There were folks who had been able to use similar technology to reproduce paintings well, but couldn’t do so for commercial purposes because each print took many hours to produce.
Therefore, we developed proprietary technologies and processes that use existing solutions and created software where it was needed. Figuring this out took around 18 months and involved many brilliant people world-wide.
WW: What type of collector is this for? What do you think they will be most excited about?
PDR: We are making prints—a practice that has been widely accepted in the art world for centuries, so I would think a more accurate and better quality print would be something for every collector.
What collectors will be most excited about is how accurate our pieces are compared to the original. When you look at a piece by us from an angle and see brushstrokes raised off of the canvas, you are able to connect with the artists process. It is extremely important to us to not only recreate the visual aesthetic of an artists work, but also their physical connection to the piece, their actions, and their gesture. We make pieces that look and feel as unique as the original.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about the philanthropic work you do and the organizations you’re working with?
PDR: We are talking to organizations that support and fund art programs in schools. I have personally supported Art of Elysium for many years, and as a company, we hope to work with them in future.
WW: You and your wife, Ellen DeGeneres, collect art. Can you tell us a bit about your collection?
PDR: We collect art that speaks to us aesthetically and emotionally. Our collection is not guided by what’s hot in the market; it doesn’t make a piece more or less exciting for us if artist is blue chip or emerging. We look for art that we want to see every day—work that we can live with, grow with, and that makes us think. It is important to feel a connection to the art and the artist who made it. That’s when art has the power to elevate and inspire you every day.
WW: Is there a show or a piece of work you’ve seen recently that you’re still thinking about?
PDR: I have been thinking a lot recently about David Hockney’s iPad drawings. Since we have been working so heavily at an intersection of art and technology, it is really provoking to see an artist with such a distinct vision explore a digital medium. Taking a process available in our pockets and creating work that is still uniquely Hockney makes me think about all the possibilities that technology can bring to the art world if the art world is willing to accept it.