Founded on the notion that choosing art should be based on “duende”—the mysterious power of art to deeply move a person—Duende Curation is the online gallery of our dreams. We chatted with founders Rachel Harrison and Jennifer Scott about their venture, which boasts a select set of rotating limited-edition prints from favourite fine artists and photographers. —Noa Nichol
Hi Rachel and Jenn! Tell us a bit about yourselves to start!
We are best friends and business partners, and have been following various creative passions together for over 15 years. We met in college and followed similar career paths within the fashion industry; eventually we shifted our design perspectives to working with interiors, which we both still do today. We have gone through so many of life’s journeys together—from marriages (and a divorce) to becoming mamas to the magic of discovering the confidence that comes with being women in our 30s—taking on a business venture together was a natural next step for us and we are so excited to finally share it with you!
What is Duende (the word, and the website)?
Duende is a Spanish word with a wide variety of definitions; the meaning we identify with for our business is “the mysterious power of art to deeply move a person”. Duende (the brand and the website) is a curated online gallery founded on the belief that choosing art should be based on that very definition of the word … on the connection we feel to art and the power of certain pieces to really resonate with us. We have collaborated with a small group of inspiring artists, both fine artists and photographers, to present a select set of limited-edition prints all offered within a universal pricing platform. We mingle impactful art with the public, allowing the everyday collector to build their gallery based on a connection with each piece.
How—and why—did the idea for a boutique-style niche platform for purchasing art come about?
After nearly a decade working within interior design, we found that one of the biggest challenges we faced was all about the art. For many clients we struggled to find impactful art with a local connection, large format and exclusivity without jumping into the realm of original artwork; we realize that many people aren’t in a position to purchase originals, but likewise don’t want to fall back into mass produced art as an alternative. With Duende, the inspiration came from creating a solution to an issue we faced everyday within designing spaces. Our vision is to define a place where an entire space can be curated with meaningful art of mixed mediums, created by a variety of artists, while establishing a cohesive relationship between the pieces. By offering limited-edition collections, our customers are gaining the value that comes with small runs, yet working with prints allows flexibility for making art more approachable.
Describe your curation style/aesthetic when it comes to art.
We have a similar overall style to one another, yet each have our individual visions within our aesthetic, which makes curating together so dynamic and allows for such variation in our offerings. While we see each of our seasons of art and artists as evolving to suit what we see as relevant to the industry at the current time, we do have an underlying essence behind our aesthetic: verging on bohemian and natural… soft with an edge, balancing an overall feminine feel with masculine undertones.
Who are your artists, and why/how did you choose those individuals?
We are so inspired by our current group of artists! Right now we are working with six fine artists (both painters and mixed medium artists), and four photographers. Before reaching out to any of them about a collaboration, we spent a lot of time listing out our various “must have” artists, exploring both local artists and artist who are local to their communities elsewhere in the world, and then making our final selects based on how each artist’s work interacts with the next; Instagram was a surprisingly essential tool for us in discovering talent we weren’t previously aware of. This season of art was hand-picked to work together as a full collection, and has a strong sense of nostalgia; the palette and content has a bit of a vintage vibe to it, although the pieces themselves blend beautifully into today’s modernity.
How does the platform work? Will it be ever-changing/rotating/growing?
We currently are collaborating with 10 artists, each of whom have a six-piece collection with us. Each piece is offered in three set sizes (based on the aspect ratio of their original works), and each piece at each of the three sizes is universally priced; essentially, all 40” x 60” prints are the same size, no matter which artist it is, and so on. This really solidifies our vision to foster the connection to a piece when choosing art. Our gathering of artists and chosen works are featured for a season of six months, after which time a new season of art and artists is showcased; by rotating our offerings after each season, we are able to continuously bring fresh content and talent to our community.
Who is Duende for?
While we were inspired to create this platform from the perspective of designers, and feel strongly that we will see much of our traffic come from other interior designers, developers and commercial art buyers, Duende really is for the everyday collector. For the people that have a love for art, want pieces to tell a story within their home, and want to know that even a collection of mixed mediums and artists can create a cohesive personal gallery. Working with prints, we also see our concept appealing to millennials—the ability to purchase high impact art that offers exclusivity and large format options, without the financial commitment of original art, settles well into the comfort zone of design-savvy younger generations.
Personal question: your current fave piece on the site?
This is such a tricky question, as we feel so connected to each piece offered within our gallery! Literally every piece was carefully chosen because we see something special within it. However, everyone has their own personal style and we are no different—while we love each piece, there are a few standouts that we could each see adorning our respective homes. We definitely couldn’t narrow it down to just one, though!
Rachel: I love the warmth and versatilely of Rubeena Ratcliffe's “Green/ Peach/ Terracotta” piece; I see the palette as very current, yet it has the timeless flexibility to blend in with a lifetime collection of art I already have within my home. Additionally, for me, Merle Somerville's “Woodstock on Wheels 11” embodies so much nostalgia; the essence of not only the girl in the image, but of the time and place overall is something I feel connected to. I also really appreciate that it was shot on 35mm film, which gives an added sense of interest to the photographers perspective. Finally, the tone-on-tone colourway ofKate Cuthbert's “Minima #58” collage piece is very attractive to me; I like the simplicity it offers. I’m really intrigued by how we engage with shapes, rather than directed content, which allows for a really interpretive nature.
Jenn: I am a hopeless romantic, and love the ability of photography to capture the emotion behind even the smallest of gestures. For me, Brit Gill's “Billetera” tells the story of a lifetime of love and companionship, and is a glimpse into the beauty behind the everyday interactions that come with that. And, since my heart and soul are rejuvenated by the ocean, I am drawn to how Abraham Castellanos' “La Tierra Vista Desde El Cielo” captures the incredible presence of the water as a formidable companion to the land. I am also very moved behind the intentions of the photographer: he believes that the children of Mexico (his home country) are the key to the country’s future and they alone hold the power for positive change for the nation … he hopes to inspire them with his imagery to wander and become insightful global citizens to facilitate this shift. Lastly, Brit Gill's “Devout”; I felt a connection to this image the first time I saw it. There is such a juxtaposition—yet meaningful correlation—between the subject matter. I have a strong affection for motorcycles, so this one naturally stood out to me, but there is a beautiful balance, almost ethereal connection, between this representation of humble means, intent behind the adornment of that which we value, and the utilitarian element of the machine.
Win! An Art Print From Duende Curation!
We have a winner! Congratulations Wen-chee L. of Vancouver, B.C., who won a size small print of their choice from Jamie Mann—an Australian-born but now Vancouver-based photographer whose collection with Duende is a series from his time shooting Milan Fashion Week in 2014.