Art Beyond Borders: An Interview With The International Duo Behind Artsetters

Artsetters is a new e-commerce site that represents artists and designers from all over the world, from Belgian woodworkers to Greek leather purveyors. Founders Lee Rotenberg and Alexandra Schinasi seek out the best in global design, introducing users to lesser-known artists through a unique “Ambassadors” program. Read on for our interview with the talented duo!

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(All photos courtesy Artsetters)
How did you two meet?

LR: We first met over dinner arranged by a mutual friend who was visiting from Belgium. Some delicious food, spirited conversation, and a few bottles of wine later, and we became more than just two internationals in a city that’s not their own—we really clicked.

How and when did the idea for Artsetters strike you?

AS: Shortly after finishing the production of my film in Israel (alongside The King’s Speech producer Gareth Unwin), I bumped into Lee at a speakeasy in the old town of Jaffa. Sitting in a dim-lit bar, surrounded by the buzz of young artists and creatives, we realized that the talented drivers of a scene like Tel Aviv are completely inaccessible to our friends back home in Switzerland and the US. It got us wondering how we could share the insiders’ knowledge of such a trendsetting community with young people both here and abroad. That brainstorm was the start of ArtSetters.

What is it that you’re aiming to accomplish with Artsetters? And what sets you apart from the competition (e-commerce sites like Etsy, Brika, etc.)?

AS: Curation is at the crux of our business. Other sites such as Artspace and Artsy sell works by already-established talents, while at ArtSetters we aim to discover the undiscovered before they become mainstream and expensive. Through our network of art and design insiders, our hope is to find the trends before they become trendy.

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Obviously art is at the core of the e-commerce platform, but there is also some incredible home design on offer. Can you each pick a favorite home décor piece?

AS: I have a serious crush on the Trilip Vase by Brussels-based LMBRJK (seen above). Each one is made of hundreds of veneer layers cut from wood species harvested from Slovenian forests. It’s a perfect mix of traditional craftsmanship and modern design.
LR: I can’t get enough of the Neon Stools by Tel Aviv-based Studio Praktik. They’re made of a continuous bended iron rod and a whole wood seat, and are a cool addition to both contemporary and classic interiors. I have two of them in my place—I use one as extra seating when friends drops by, and another as a side table next to my modern sofa.

Explain the idea behind your “Ambassadors”—what do they add to the user experience?

LR: The idea behind our “Ambassadors” concept came from seeing how the arts scenes in Tel Aviv, Paris, and London work. If you manage to connect with just one person who is a part of the creative inner circle of a city, they’ll be able to introduce you to a whole network of emerging talents. With magazine editors (including one of Lonny’s own), fashion stylists, photographers, and architects in the mix, we’ve got a pool of talented curators who have their finger on the pulse of their respective cities and can introduce our users to what’s new and what’s next.

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What have been your best sellers so far?

The handmade wooden clutch by Tesler + Mendelovitch has been very successful. Each piece is one-of-a-kind and takes an entire day to produce! It’s like a piece of art you can tuck under your arm. The Mutrah jewelry has been selling like crazy, too. It’s colorful, fun, and handmade—hard to resist.

What’s next for Artsetters?

LR: We’ve only just launched the beta version of our website—this is just the very beginning of what we’re aiming to achieve. We currently have over 85 artists in 19 different cities and plan to expand far beyond that.
AS: Yes, we’re going to expand, but we’ll never lose our intimate, curated element.
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