With over ten years in contemporary art and photography, Ellen Stone has been working with contemporary art galleries and big name photographers such as Rankin, with whom she helped to mentor up-and-coming photographers for the BBC series, The Great British Photography Challenge. In 2019 Ellen founded Public Offerings Ltd., an art photography agency designed to represent artists that are traditionally under-represented by the blue-chip gallery system – with a particular focus on women and LGBTQIA+ artists.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I’m an art photography curator, writer, and general contemporary art fanatic. After spending years working with big name galleries and different artists across their careers, I fell for photography as a medium. I founded Public Offerings Ltd. as a way to share my passion for the art form with a wider audience and offer support to people in the industry who need it most.
Since launching in 2019, Public Offerings Ltd. has dedicated time to bring together artists and collectors from across different backgrounds. We understand that compassionate consumption, buying pieces from early career, female, and LGBTQIA+ artists, is becoming a priority for young collectors. Our aim is to increase the visibility of artists, and give them the chance to compete early on in their careers, as this is the key for improving representation across the art market of the future.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I realised that there was need for a company that was looking at photography as serious art form, offering all of the support and mechanisms that blue chip galleries offer painters or sculptors, but without being constrained to their systems and ideology.
How did you achieve awareness?
Events, talks, exhibitions, articles, social media… there are so many ways we’ve managed to reach our audience. As a company we thrive on our flexibility, being able to bring our artists and visions to consumers in a myriad of different ways.
What are the key successes?
Bringing our artists to international exhibitions, museums and art fairs definitely feel like high-lights. But then there’s all the little things which make the job fulfilling: everything from helping an artist get Arts Council Funding, to building photography collections for people’s homes or bringing art to corporate spaces – every small success is a big one to an emerging artist.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Photography is still an under-appreciated medium. This is why a big part of our collector outreach is in education – teaching people what to look for and how to be comfortable accessing art.
The most obvious challenge though was the Covid-19 Pandemic. Being primarily events based when we launched, there was a huge shift during lockdown. We came out of the Pandemic stronger than when we went in, due to our dedication to building online projects, investing time in online events, and even starting an online magazine to create those connections we missed making face-to-face.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Right now we’re excited to see art fairs returning and more and more people getting out of their home to events and projects. This means we’re dedicating this year to seeing people again!
Looking into the future we’re thinking about location. Building a collaborative studio, bookstore, gallery and office space to allow the artists we work with somewhere to continue their work and share experiences.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I’m naturally a glass half full person, I always look at the downsides first. So if I can lean into something which feels inherently difficult and take a risk, so can you.
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Starting my company I wanted to be frugal. I didn’t want to overspend and wanted to prove I could make good decisions as a first time business owner. In one of my early meetings with my accountant he listened to me explain my upcoming expenses and business plan and when I was done told me: “you don’t have to be afraid of your marketing budget”. I was so over-concerned with lowering my outgoings I had forgotten to think about spending money on client acquisition. The old adage “you’ve got to spend money to make money” (when done responsibly) is an important part of growing any business.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Our artists are our biggest inspirations. Amanda Rowan isn’t afraid of the strength that comes from her femininity. Sarah J Edwards exemplifies how personal connections bring out the best results. Sofia Wilkinson-Steel is so confident and teaches us to accept ourselves and sharing that with others. Emmanuel Robert Owusu-Afram highlights the importance of community and background. Jasmine De Silva is unafraid to bring politics into aesthetics…
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Susan Sontag said “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”
We all have dreams, ideas to explore and places we want to go. I’m inspired to work my way through my personal and professional bucket list, and to know that even if I achieve one thing there is going to be more for me to explore and do.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?