Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Meural is changing the way we interact with art. We first encountered it last year, at the cookbook launch for Dinner with Georgia O’Keefe: Recipes, Art, Landscape in New York. Photographs of art and food from the book were displayed with pristine clarity on screens throughout the space. With a wave of the hand, we were able to change the image in the frame via motion sensor.
Surprised by this technology, we decided to find out more. We discovered that in 2014, co-founder Vladimir Vukicevic established Meural with one intention: to make visual art a greater part of people’s daily lives. The dynamic device for your home is like a digital art frame in which downloaded images can be displayed and can change, and artists’ work discovered. “It’s an art media device. People are treating it as something that serves and delivers content on a daily basis,” Vukicevic told us recently when we visited him in his New York office. There he shared how Meural is working with museums and organizations like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Artists Rights Society to get art into the homes of millennials.
WHITEWALL: After studying economics and philosophy at NYU, you helped corporations with digital strategies at a management consulting firm, and then built your first company (RocketHub, a crowdfunding platform for artists) when you were 25. Tell us how that set the stage for you to create Meural.
VLADIMIR VUKICEVIC: What I saw was that music, film, television, writing—these forms of media had to be democratizational, particularly when it comes to distribution. Whereas visual art, visual culture, was still trapped either in the lower end, like posters, and high end, like auction houses, galleries. The middle market, particularly for mil- lennials or people who were beginning to learn about art but had no clue where to start, was completely untapped. There are the Artsys of the world, but those are just more filters on top of existing markets. There were very few solutions in terms of new markets or opportunities. So in 2014, we started Meural.
WW: Can you walk us through setting up a Meural in your home?
VV: When you connect the Meural to WiFi, it comes with 100 artworks—a sample that you will permanently have access to. There are 40 on the Meural and 60 on the website that you can download. If you want access to the full collection, tens of thousands, it’s a $5 subscription per month. For now, we just want people to have an ease of use and getting in the habit of having artwork in their lives on a daily basis. We have a huge collection of what I call public domain works, and work directly with museums, large image providers, individual artists, and copyright agencies. Some are copyright, so we work with organizations like the Artists Rights Society to make sure that we clear those rights. We are sourcing the best, robust data that we possibly can—and we provide a personal service to our users based on preference of color, subject, a kind of mood, or how often they change their art. It’s those kinds of things that we are try- ing to harness technology for to make a deeply personal kind of experience.
WW: How do you think digital art is influencing art, and the art world?
VV: From our perspective, it is more about what distribution power means. We are already in thousands of homes, and we have an unfiltered, direct connection to a whole new market of people. We are in people’s sacred, personal spaces where there’s a piece of art there that had better be really good and really meaningful to them. It’s
not on our phone, it’s not on an iPad, it’s not on TV where you have to go through a million apps to get to the art; it’s directly on people’s walls, and still has the power and the dynamism to change—for people to change it, or for us to change it on their behalf. In the digital arena of art, it’s about changing behavior around the way we consume it. A typical relationship is you have something for a long time in one space. This does not replace that in any way, but this is for another space where our behavior around it is actually fluid.
This is an incredible marketing and promotional tool. People now have a way to connect to a museum, gallery, or an individual artist that they did not have a direct connection to before, in a non-geographically-limiting area. We are starting to see real tangible outcomes to that. We are also never trying to replace original artwork, even limited-edition prints. We are just serving as a new distribution medium that is quite beautiful, but it’s also a dynamic gateway art has not had before.
WW: Has anything been particularly surprising about your user interaction?
VV: We are surprised by how often people interact with it—about eight times per day, on average. In general, someone will download a collection and they’ll look through a couple of images and stop on something they want to have. That happens about two to three times a day, which ends up being about eight interactions. Another big take- away is time-sensitive material—around holidays, celebrations, cultural moments, and events.
We are also surprised by the diversity of people’s tastes. People who are looking at classi- cal work, but they’re also interested in reasonably niche digital art. Most people start with the art that they know. But what we see from our data is that once they start feeling comfortable with learning and exploring, that’s when they start getting more into the avant-garde, esoteric forms of artwork.
WW: What is Meural working on now?
VV: We’re in the process of introducing an edito- rial layout to the platform—to move ourselves from being a place where you search for art, to also a place where you learn. In many ways, we view Meural as a media company. We just happen to own a distribution platform for these beautiful frames. Our primary core nugget media is the art, but around that lives text, audio, and video that can give people a deeper dive and experience around. So that allows for us to ask museums to feature not only work from the past, but things like the original catalogue, and the text.
The ultimate dream and vision is for Meural to be a medium for new artwork. If we can be that medium, where an artist can actually make a living, or some sizable income off of this platform that will be in millions of homes and offices, then we’ll know we made it. That’s the epitome and definition of success—making a market that gives artists a livelihood. We’re a modern-day art patron, fostering a network of artists who have a means of publishing their work.