Janina Joffe is the owner and founder of digital art gallery East of Mayfair, the new online art and design salon specialising in contemporary art, design and photography priced up to £10,000 and available to buy through their unique online platform.
Within its own right East of Mayfair functions as a work of art which is no surprise considering it was created as a collaboration with renowned illustrators Pierre Le-Tan and Thibaud Herem. The form is simple and personable, six rooms of a virtual house regularly curated with new artworks, all up for sale and curated by Janina Joffe.
Joffe also offers bespoke advice on services assisting collection buildings, installations and curation of any kind from art galleries to the home. Collaborating with East of Mayfair are: Natasha Chambers, The Estate of Rene Gruau, Pierre Le-Tan, Marcus Tremonto, Marco Walker, Michelle Elzay, Grillo Demo, Thibaud Herem and The Estate of Antonio Lopez.
What made you want to start a virtual gallery rather than the normal type of gallery?
I think it was primarily a question of practicality and budget. You can’t start your first business in a five story town house because it costs too much money. Also when I started it the digital aspect was really appealing because it gives you a lot of freedom to work from wherever you are you can check the site on your phone, on your iPad, even if I am on holiday I can still communicate will people who are putting in orders or artists that are producing work it is just so much easier for me to work that way and I don’t have to have the commitment of the space.
Does this make it an advantage for you or the artist?
In addition to the online gallery we also host exhibitions in London – our next taking place in September. So the idea has always been to do these exhibtions in the real world as well as the online platform so people can actually experience the work as well.
We can create more of an experience than if you just had a normal gallery space. I had always worked in big galleries and they are always in the same kind of format, and that kind of visual input is very much predictable. So much of the time it is a white space, with the same light setting that kind of works spaced out in the same way – most of the time that is. I thought that there should be a way of making it a bit more similar to the experience of living with art because that is what you do when you buy art. You live with it. You keep it more than you will keep furniture, I think you might be less hesitant to chuck out a sofa if you really wanted a new one but with an artwork you’d never throw it away and that is kind of the idea with the house and the rooms and you can curate with different artworks.
Do you think what you are doing will become more common in the future?
I think the online format is already being explored on so many levels, there are already kind of versions of an online gallery and online art experiencing platforms, like Artsy or Sedition, who are digital art sales or the website called Artstack.
I think the online component is very popular at the moment because it is turning out that it works, people buy from me without having ever seen works, people are happy to express their interest and then set up a meeting. I think looking online is like shopping online, it’s really easy to do it from home, you don’t feel like you are being pressured by a salesperson, and you can find out exactly what it is before you can feel awkward for not being able to afford it.
That is so often the case when you go to galleries, but even if you like something and it might not be that expensive going up to the person it’s still awkward going to that person because they can turn round and say 500 thousand. My friend just did an exhibition where the works were all between 250 and 750 pounds and sold the whole thing so you can buy art that is not that expensive, that is incredible.
How did you get hold of the crayon portrait of Andy Warhol?
I used to work for a gallery in Germany where the woman has got one of the biggest if not the biggest collection of fashion illustrations in the world. And I got it through her.
What’s next for you?
I have got these exhibitions coming up which is always pretty exciting, I have got another one in development at a very special venue, and possibly in five years time (or less than that, who knows?) maybe have my own space – a permanent space. That would have to be quite a special one not a typical space, it would have to be something that I can make quite unique or something that turns out quite special, it would need to have that salon style to it.
What are your most popular selling items at the moment?
Popular at the moment are: illustrations by Natasha Chambers, I love them and actually her and Thibaud Hérem who illustrated the rooms of the house he makes beautiful prints. They are both the low end of the price spectrum, but they are both making a living from it.
Interview: Declan Higgins
Image: Leigh Keily