Malaysian online marketplace for visual art prints by local artists

More and more platforms in Malaysia are filling the gaps in the local arts industry, such as Buttermilk which serves as its “yellow pages” and Cult Creative which functions similarly to “LinkedIn” for local artists.

These platforms aim to help the visibility and networking of local artists by bringing them all together in one place. Usually, Malaysian artists then rely on bazaars and their own social networks to sell their work.

This is where two sisters, Dana and Elina, noticed that we were missing a must-see market (online and in-store) specifically focused on the visual arts that people could buy from. This is what led to the creation of OUTLET.

One stop shop for local art

As an average consumer who is not very familiar with the local art scene, I find it difficult to buy local for the exact reason mentioned by Dana and Elina.

Because there is no one stop shop for local visual art, I would just get generic art from a store that probably produces paintings in mass or from IKEA.

“Once we thought about it even more, we felt a growing desire to create a platform and market where people can discover artists and buy their work,” Dana and Elina told Vulcan Post.

Prints by artists Sherwan (left) and Fabiola (right) / Image credit: OUTLET, Sherwan and Fabiola

So the sisters took their first dive into the e-commerce scene to solve this problem for local artists and consumers. They run OUTLET next door, as Dana is an artistic psychotherapist and Elina works in communications with the publishing and music industries.

Appeal to a variety of tastes

On how the duo source the works listed on OUTLET, they shared that they currently have products on consignment as well as exclusive collaborations.

“With consignments, we approach artists (or vice versa) who already have existing products that they would like to sell on our platform. Regarding exclusive collaborations, we reach out to artists that we would like to collaborate with to sell products exclusively sold on our platform, ”they said.

Some ready-made works of art have a few units in stock while others do not, and the number of units is mutually agreed upon by OUTLET and the artists. These numbers also depend on whether or not they are open or limited edition.

Dictionary time: The difference between the open edition and the limited edition is that limited editions are usually original works of art that an artist has developed in a specific print medium. However, open editions are a selection of works of art that can be reproduced over and over. Most open edition prints allow the purchase of an unlimited number of the same artwork.

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On the OUTLET page, you can find a variety of art prints varying in style from minimalist to vibrant. Fine art prints cost around RM15 to RM90 depending on the size and medium, and there are also original tote bags that sell for RM25.

Go to where customers are already

“When we did our survey before launching OUTLET, we noticed that a majority were unwilling to spend too much money on fine art prints,” Dana and Elina recalled.

“While this seemed like something that could possibly hold us back as a business, we believe in the value of artists and their work, which is why we are using OUTLET as a platform to try and create more demand. . “

Plant-inspired prints by artist Shan Shan / Image credit: OUTLET and Shan Shan

Currently their main sales channel is Instagram, but they also facilitate transactions on Facebook. The reason is that they find these social media platforms to be the best ways for clients to discover emerging and established artists.

Additionally, it helps Dana and Elina build their social media presence, but they have said that they are also working on a website that will be launching soon.

Their current method of selling prints through PMs may still be sustainable on this scale, but a website is definitely the next step if they want to establish themselves more firmly as a benefactor in the industry.

While they may lose that personal touch of making a sale through messaging, having a site that can facilitate e-commerce transactions can ease the customer journey and allow purchases to be made virtually anytime.

Bring out artists among the most disadvantaged

OUTLET is not a social enterprise, but Dana and Elina also felt it was important to include artists from less privileged communities to participate in the market as well.

Therefore, they help sell tote bags made by Life2Life Ampang Sewing Center, a social enterprise that provides refugee asylum seekers with the opportunity to earn a living from their skills. This group also works with the social enterprise Love, Light, Lemons.

Simple tote bags that always make a statement / Image Credit: OUTLET

“With this philosophy at heart, some of our upcoming artist products will have a portion of the proceeds donated to a chosen charity or cause,” the sisters shared with Vulcan Post.

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Going into e-commerce with products Malaysians aren’t the most willing to splurge on will undoubtedly be a challenge for OUTLET.

While it can be difficult to change this spending behavior among Malaysians (based on OUTLET survey responses), OUTLET always creates an opportunity for that to change.

This is just the start, but if the startup can gain enough ground, it will open up more opportunities for other companies to do the same for the benefit of the local arts community.

  • You can find out more about OUTLET here.
  • You can read more about the art-related startups we’ve covered. here.

Featured Image Credit: Dana and Elina, Founders of OUTLET (left) and Afi, the artist of fruit paintings (right)

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