Meet Kipton Cronkite: art collector, philanthropist, real estate professional, and entrepreneur who is perhaps best known for founding KiptonART, an online lookbook dedicated to supporting young artists. Nowadays, he’s combined his savvy in both art and real estate to launch his latest venture, ArtStager, a platform that brings unique art from emerging and established artists into luxury real estate developments. His promise is a win-win for both the artist and the developer; the former gains exposure to a coveted audience, while the latter infuses signature properties with personality and style.
ArtStager nicely demonstrates how art can transform the place we live, and how the space we live can actually become a work of art. Read Kipton’s insights into the market, and reach out for opportunities to collaborate!
What are the biggest changes happening in art right now?
First, there’s more social media presence now than there has been ever before. Art fairs have also exploded, so people are much more aware of what’s going on, and there are more opportunities to see art outside of formal galleries.
Second, instead of only having art collectors and serious buyers at art shows, we’re starting to see a lot of young people attending who just want to learn more about art. Luxury and corporate brands are driving a lot more attention to art as well, so you have more mainstream access. It’s been great for the overall market.
Over the last few years, maybe because of the economy, people are looking for different places to invest their money. Similar to how the real estate market has skyrocketed in some areas of the market, art is increasingly becoming a great way to earn money in the long-term.
It’s been interesting to see that on the very high end of the market, prices just continue to climb. There are such a small number of people who can afford to participate in that side of the market, and it’s a little intimidating to most people. The good thing is that people are looking for opportunities to buy work from younger artists, and get to know the artists as people. Buyers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are now looking to for art that has a personal connection. They don’t just want a random piece of art on their wall.
What first got you into the art world?
When I was at Bank of America in 2005, I had the opportunity to exhibit the work of four MFA students from the School of Visual Arts. I became friends with one of the artists, who said that he’d love to show his art outside of the SVA. I told him that I would work on a space for him. I came back and proposed doing something at the W Hotel in Times Square. After that event, which ran throughout the summer, I suddenly had lots of luxury brands and artists coming to me and asking me what kind of exposure I could give them, and whether I could introduce them to collectors. KiptonART was born out of a need to create a central place where artists could show their portfolios. I started building a roster of artists, which has now grown to over two thousand.
I was doing this while working in finance. I was laid off in 2009 during recession and was suddenly without a full time job. I quickly turned to art and went to the owners of 75 Wall Street and staged eight art exhibitions there that year. I started focusing on growing my roster of artists, and I got my real estate license in 2010 because I was driving so much traffic to the building. The owners said that if I got a license, I could start getting a commission.
That’s when I really started staging spaces.
What made you found ArtStager?
I saw that there was a need from developers and real estate professionals to find curated art that was appropriate for their properties. They wanted to work with someone who understood art market and also had one foot in real estate world.
In ten years, where do you want to be?
My goal is in ten years is to really be the top resource for launching up-and-coming artists. I want to give them exposure in new developments, and put them on the radar of consumers.
What’s your favorite space you’ve staged so far?
We did a project in Miami recently that was one of my favorites. We had so much space to work with—it was a $14 million, 6,400-square foot home—and we created great scenes from the bedrooms to the corridors to the living rooms to the dining room. To me, it’s been exciting to tap into my network of artists. When someone says, “I want an ocean-scape,” or “I want fashion photography,” I can help.
What’s in it for the real estate developer?
Their incentive is to create more of a personality for their properties. I get to know the developer and the agent, and understand their philosophy and the image are they trying to portray. Are they going for a millennial demographic? Do they want old school Upper East Side? There’s a lot of psychology when it comes to branding a property. A Lower East Side project is going to have a different feel than a 5th Avenue apartment. I can jump into either world and feel equally comfortable. I have the opportunity to tap into gallery relationships as well. If I am working on a $40 million apartment, we may need a $1 million dollar piece in that apartment. I have the relationships to be able to pull inventory, and find the exact right work for that space.
What’s a key challenge you’ve faced in your life, and how did you overcome it?
Professionally, the biggest shock for me was being laid off during the financial crisis, as it was for so many other people. At the same time, it was a very positive thing because it pushed me into the art world and made me do what I passionately love to do. If I hadn’t been pushed to the edge, it would have taken me much longer to get there. Going from the security of finance to building something on my own was definitely a challenge, but it was an amazing experience.
On a personal level, my father passed away when I was six years old. Having a loss at an early age set a precedent for me to protect myself and be a little more guarded. After the big professional shift in my life, I started to focus more on what I was passionate about, and I had a chance to re-focus on my personal life. I spend time thinking of what was really going to make me happy. Was it work? Was it another person? I learned to feel more comfortable sharing more of myself with other people. The personal and professional growth went hand in hand.
How can IVY members support you?
The one thing I’d like IVY Members to know is that if they have a home or an apartment and they want a personalized art experience, I’d be happy to help them and guide them. I could suggest artists, and we could create a unique and personalized art experience in your home.
Second, if you have artist friends who you think are really important and who you think I should know about, please reach out and let me know! Send me their websites and links to their portfolios. I’m always looking or new artists and projects.
What’s the piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Follow your heart. Follow you instincts. Never give up!
Learn more about ArtStager here. To learn more about IVY, please visit www.ivy.com.