Thibault de Watrigant: Art Shortlist

by | Nov 30, 2021 | Interviews

French entrepreneur Thibaut de Watrigant launched the online art platform "Art Shortlist" in 2019. Another? Is it necessary? Certainly, but then how do you position yourself in relation to the behemoths of Artsy, Artnet, Singulart, Christies, and many others? The answers are in this interview conducted between Paris and Geneva.

Sonia Jebsen: What were your motivations for creating the online platform? Why the name Art Shortlist?

Thibault de Watrigant: I graduated from the IESA (School of Art and Culture in Paris) then I trained in various companies such as galleries, auction houses. I have participated in the launch of several websites related to art and sales. These professional experiences have revealed to me the positive sides of the art market, but also its weaknesses, especially its backwardness in the area of the digital. Since my childhood, I have been drawn to entrepreneurship. In college, I devoured trade magazines and business news. My personal journey pushed me to embark on this adventure at 23 years old.

With Art Shortlist, I wanted to meet the needs of an increasingly connected world that is looking for a trusted reference solution to buy and sell works. The choice of the name was obvious to me. Being passionate about sports, the Anglo-Saxon term “Shortlist” is familiar to me because it refers to the players chosen by the coach to compose the best team.

Lucia Schaut, Bang, 2021.

SJ: Knowing that there are many art sales platforms, how do you differentiate yourself?

TdW: The fundamental difference with other platforms is that our team carefully selects the works and artists represented. We apply the principle of the shortlist. Like an international gallery, Art Shortlist chooses and showcases handpicked artists and works favoring quality over quantity. The mediums put forward are painting, sculpture, drawing and printmaking from modern to contemporary times. The platform brings together around 100 artists to date with works valued from 100 to 150,000 Euros.

We use a showroom in Paris (9th arrondissement) where customers can admire the pieces that interest them. The team includes, among others, art advisors, experts in finance and art market law. We offer support from A to Z to the buyer, including the installation of the acquired work. Our commission rate applied to buy and sell transactions is 15%. Which is less compared to an art gallery which takes 50%, or an auction house which takes 30%.

Bernard Rancillac, Cinémonde 7 – Joan Fontaine, 1984.

SJ: How did you get through the period of the health crisis and what lessons do you draw from it?

TdW: Art Shortlist appeared on the web in September 2019, a few months before the health crisis. But this turbulent period had a positive impact on our business. Sales and visits increased in 2020 and our growth has continued since.

We are already seeing that actors in the art world are less and less reluctant to buy or sell through an online platform. This is a large-scale upheaval that is expected to intensify with the arrival of new generations of collectors, such as millennials. At the same time, our clients are demanding a stronger physical presence, which is why we are preparing events and exhibitions for the months to come. An opportunity to meet our community!

The health crisis has also taught me that flexibility is the key word when you are in the art market. The situation can be turned upside down overnight, so having an equally compelling range of alternatives is essential.

JonOne, Sans titre, 2021.

SJ: What are your medium and long term projects for Art Shortlist?

TdW: In the next few weeks, we will be uploading the second version of To develop it with our technical teams, we relied on hundreds of feedback from our users. Thus, we will be able to offer them a site that meets their expectations. We wanted to simplify and embellish it so that artshortlisters have a great time and can have great artistic experiences.

At the same time, we want to increase the number of exhibitions across Europe. Moreover, the premiere will take place in Paris from January 27 to February 8, 2022. More generally, our objective is to become a benchmark market place on a European and then global scale in the years to come while preserving our soul and our values.

SJ: What is your view of the current art market?

TdW: This market is in full transition. Before the health crisis, it was the last cultural sector to put up resistance compared to other fields such as music or cinema. Some old models are doomed to disappear to make way for others more suited to the new generations. I believe that companies delivering maximum value to their customers will pass this milestone. On the other hand, those who will remain in self-absorbed communication have to worry…Positive communication with high added-value is, in my opinion, crucial to exist in today’s art market.

Henri Matisse, Composition pour le Centenaire de l’Imprimerie Mourlot, 1952

SJ: Do you regularly go to art places?

TdW: I am fortunate to live in Paris where I am surrounded by museums, galleries and artistic events of all kinds, so I take full advantage!

SJ: Are you an art collector yourself?

TdW: Yes, it gives me a lot of satisfaction! My tastes are eclectic, including works of street art, modern art and abstract art.

SJ: Who are your favorite artists from any period?

TdW: Difficult question! Here are three of my favorite artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nicolas de Staël and Johannes Vermeer.

SJ: Are you creative yourself?

TdW: I have been practicing photography since I was a teenager. Being passionate about travel and nature, landscape photography came naturally to me.