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December 09, 2021

Spotlight on Prospect founder Laura Currie

Article by newcube

6 min. read

Laura Currie portrait
Laura Currie

Laura Currie is a serial entrepreneur and doyenne of direct-to-consumer business, with a penchant for making high style and culture accessible to all. She is the founder of Prospect – an online retailer that collaborates with top-tier contemporary artists to create limited-edition, collectible art & design objects; and co-founder of Pet-à-Porter – a new shopping destination for the most stylish pet in the neighborhood. 

Prospect believes that art should be shared, and that high culture should be within reach. Through collaborations with top-tier contemporary artists  – such as Judy Chicago, Baron Von Fancy, Lawrence Weiner, and Nir Hod – global brands, institutions, and more, they create limited-edition, collectible art & design objects equally beautiful and accessible. Scouring the globe for the latest in materials and techniques, Prospect makes art inclusive, unique, and cool – exactly what we believe in at newcube.

With Laura, our team at newcube shares a passion for accessibility in the art world. We had the pleasure to chat with Laura Currie, to talk everything art and design.

Laura, it’s a pleasure to speak to you today. Tell us about yourself, your background and how you came to enter the contemporary art world?

My passive interest in the space became something bordering on obsessive after an internship where I was exposed to the launch of a collaboration between photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and Hermès. The experience highlighted the ways in which contemporary art lends itself to brand storytelling and the possibilities located at that specific nexus of culture and consumerism. I realized that those stories didn’t need to be told just for collectors or curators, but could also — and should also — be accessible to a larger audience.

Judy Chicago for Prospect, Bigamy Hood Dinner Plate (Courtesy Prospect)
Madelaine Buttini for Prospect, Zodiac Candles (Courtesy Prospect)

What inspired you to create Prospect?

Admirers of contemporary art exist beyond the cognoscenti or the 1%, but the art world can be so exclusionary. I realized that many people in my network admired this creative space, but didn’t know how to enter it, and didn’t know how to become part of the conversation. Prospect’s underlying mission has always been to make top-tier, in-demand artists and makers accessible to more audiences. I want to create products that give the broader contemporary art fanbase a sense of inclusion. This also allows the contemporary artist to connect with a broader market — what I call micro-investors — those who may not be ready to buy an original piece but still want some kind of ownership. It also gives another revenue stream, and additional exposure, to young and rising artists. It’s a win-win for both sides.

We couldn’t agree more. This is very much a part of our ethos at newcube, making art accessible to all and providing an entry point for a new generation of collectors. In light of the pandemic, how has Prospect adapted to the changing conditions of the market?

The pandemic was especially hard, at least financially, for the contemporary art world. Commissions were cancelled or delayed, gallery shows postponed, art fairs shuttered. We realized that if we were going to survive COVID, we needed to work fast on bringing new products to the market that confronted the new normal. One focus was on actual COVID-related products like face masks, a category that lends itself particularly well to contemporary art collaborations. Supply chains were a challenge, but I am very hands-on with the manufacturers Prospect works with, and we were able to pull it together to release masks in collaboration with Edward Granger, Baron von Fancy, Madelaine Buttini, and Manhattan Knights.

Edward Granger for Prospect, Pink Sunshine Face Mask (Courtesy Edward Granger)

It was also incredibly important for my team and I to give back in some way, and we finally connected with CERF+, the leading non-profit focused on providing a safety net to studio artists. Nir Hod, who we have worked with since the beginning of Prospect, came up with what I think was one of the most powerful and special responses to the pandemic — the Nothing Lasts Forever soap, which has COVID written on it that you can literally wash away. A percentage of every sale of Nir’s soap goes to CERF+’s COVID-19 Relief Grant, which provides stipends to artists who are facing dire circumstances due to food, housing, or medical insecurities.

All of these COVID-specific products notwithstanding, the pandemic left millions of people working from home. We saw a massive uptick in sales because so many of Prospect’s products are additive to your living space, making it more artful, comfortable, and beautiful. We pride ourselves in that.

How do you find and research the artists that you collaborate with?
There’s no standard process when it comes to our artist collaborations, but all of them are artists whose work I admire and feel strongly will add to Prospect’s curation. Discovery comes from everywhere, whether it’s a recommendation or an existing relationship, or an email submission, or just a scroll through Instagram. Case in point: Prospect’s relationship with Nir Hod came through a mentor of mine, Doreen Remen, who is the co-founder of Art Production Fund, and Judy Chicago came through my friend Lesley Silverman at United Talent Agency.

The only real rule Prospect has is that the artist is passionate about what we are making with them. We don’t team up with people who just want to rubber-stamp a product because, frankly, consumers are smart enough to know when there’s no soul behind what we’re selling.

What advice would you give to emerging artists who are just starting out?

Don’t give up. Look to Betty Tompkins, who was rejected by art critics and anti-establishment feminists for decades. One of her pieces was acquired by Centre Pompidou exactly 30 years after she was denied entry to France on grounds of vulgarity. Even if you can’t support yourself through your art, paint or sculpt or whatever medium after work or on the weekends, or whenever you can. If you have a distinct POV, eventually someone will recognize it and celebrate it.

I also encourage emerging artists to think beyond their medium. There are so many ways to get your work – and your name – out there today, so they should be open-minded in who they collaborate with and how their work manifests itself. I say this with tongue-in-cheek as that’s also how I view Prospect.

What artist would you love to collect yourself if you could choose anyone? 

I have eclectic tastes and I love a mixture of emerging and established artists. Rachel Lee Hovnanian, Julie Mehretu, Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly are some of my favorites. I’m also always trying to discover new artists, so let me know when you find someone you like!

We certainly will, we also focus on discovering new talents at all time! Now… let’s talk about what’s ahead. What would your predictions be for the art world in the next 5 years?

For one, rising concern around the climate crisis will escalate criticism towards traveling art fairs and the massive carbon footprint these events produce. The art world will need to come up with new approaches to how collectors view and experience art.

Second, people in a post-pandemic world crave human connection. They are interested in participating, in becoming part of the narrative. Immersive experiences are only continuing to increase in popularity, like the recent Van Gogh and Banksy exhibitions. For better or for worse, viewers want a 360-connection to what’s on the wall.

Finally, the trend towards buying art online will grow exponentially. Online sales by Christie’s last year were almost five times higher than the same period in 2019. I expect more virtual fairs, exhibitions, and “galleries.”

Well, maybe we are already in the future then! Are there any exciting upcoming projects at Prospect you can share with us?

2022 is going to be epic. We are collaborating with artists on products that are really just next level, that push the envelope, that honestly really don’t exist in the space. Some may be controversial, but all will start a conversation. Expect more from both rising and established artists, as well as collaborations that benefit important causes, unexpected brand experiences, and more.

How exciting. We cannot wait to see what 2022 and Prospect have to offer! Last but not least, given your love and support for young artists on the rise, who are your favorite artists and which are your favorite artworks from newcube’s selection?

My favorite ones are Molly Kent’s Doubt Plagues Me, Shantel Miller’s Laid Hands, and Pedro Ruxa’s With Silence We Speak.

Thank you, Laura. Always a pleasure to chat with you and we wish you tons of success with Prospect and your future projects! 

Shantel Miller, Laid Hands, 2020
Rainbow text against a black background
Pedro Ruxa, With Silence We Speak, 2020
Fabric pieces glued together in abstract shapes in vibrant pink, blue, orange, green, black and gray with text
Molly Kent, Doubt Plagues Me, 2020
Shantel Miller, Laid Hands, 2020
Rainbow text against a black background
Pedro Ruxa, With Silence We Speak, 2020

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Laid Hands
Laid Hands
$1,600
Shantel MillerPainting$1,600
acrylicemergingfigurative

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Molly Kent

Molly Kent

Edinburgh, Scotland

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