Mark Westall interviews Peter Tullin CEO and Co-Founder CultureLabel

Another one off FAD’s occasional interviews with people leading companies that are changing the very fabric of the art world up now is Peter Tullin CEO and Co-Founder of
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1 What’s coming up for CultureLabel in 2013?
As well as lots of exciting new product releases and this year’s REMIX, we’ll be launching a number of new creative partnerships (both online and offline) that are sure to delight our fans, as well as releasing further updates to the website to create the best possible experience for cultural shoppers. We’re also very excited this month to be moving into our new space in Shoreditch to house our ever expanding team.

2 How long has CultureLabel been running ?
We came up with the idea about 4-years ago when my business partner Simon and myself were at the ICA and had our light bulb moment. We saw there was a limited edition art work by the artist Mark Leckey for around £150 which was only £100 more than the average £50 you’d spend on poster art. We were instantly hit by the opportunity to bring together work by leading artists, galleries and museums into one single website, where people could access and live with life-affirming artwork and artist-designed goods that offer true artistic integrity. It took about a year to develop and launch the concept so we have been live for nearly 3-years now.

3 What is your job at CL and what do you actually do?
I’m the co-founder, so aside from setting the overall direction for the website and business, I get to spend part of my day uncovering outstanding partners & collections for the website and discussing the discoveries made by others in our buying team. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty cool job; especially as the search for talent and our customer base becomes increasingly international and we continue to meet so many talented people. In 2012 I made it to Australia, New York, San Francisco, Copenhagen Paris and Thailand among other places. Life is pretty fast paced in a technology start-up and you are constantly innovating and learning new things. As people strive for creative and original products beyond the high street, we’re also very aware that we’re building a company – and a movement – at the centre of what is a very exciting growth area around ecommerce and the arts.

4 Who else is important to Culture label and what do they do?

While a passion for physical design and culture runs through the DNA of CultureLabel, our platform is digital. Our tech team are therefore crucial to the business and are pushing the boundaries in areas like social and mobile commerce which are growing rapidly amongst our audiences. The curatorial skills and expert eye of our buying team is also crucial to our business in building CultureLabel as the leading destination for the world’s best art and design.

London Brick Vase Of Cabbages and Kings £30.00 Slip cast earthenware with transparent glaze.

5 What was the original concept for CL and how has it changed over time?
We started with a vision to simply unite the products of leading culture institutions. However, you quickly realise there is an amazing ecosystem of artists and designers who are looking for ecommerce representation too, so we now work with over 500 individuals as well.

Above and beyond curating, we now create too. As the consumer trend for original, limited-edition and bespoke products gains pace, we have started working on collaborative projects between our partners and major brands such as Amnesty International and Bestival to develop new artist-designed collections ranging from limited edition prints to commissioned ceramics and jewellery.

I’m also certain our business will continue to shift and evolve going forward with further physical representations of the CultureLabel offer, as well as innovative online versions of the platform as we adapt with new technologies. Like many entrepreneurs you also make a ton of mistakes along the way before you get to the right model. If someone tells you they got everything right first time they are probably not telling the full story in my experience!

Importantly for me however is the fact that the original vision remains largely the same; everyone in our team is passionate about enabling more people to live with great art, design and culture – helping artists, designers and institutions to thrive at the same time.

6 Last Year you secured 2nd/3rd? level funding how much was this ? And what will it primarily be used for ?
I can’t reveal the exact level but it is a sizeable amount that is really helping us to aim very high. Their involvement has allowed us to really expand the team over the last few months, adding over 10 posts already so it really feels like the next phase of CultureLabel with some very talented people joining. These are primarily on the technology and marketing side so we can build the best possible experience for our customers and also to reach even more people who we know would love CultureLabel too. The impact of the new people is already being felt in the latest version of the website which has many new social features which are already very popular.

‘Antares and Love I’ Joe Webb /ArtRepublic £450.00 Giclee and Silkscreen with Silver Leaf Signed Limited Edition of 50 art print by Joe Webb, 57cm x 81cm
7 I’ve heard that over 90% of Net A Porters sales are under the $500 mark is this the same for CL ?
It is not quite the case for us as we sell a lot of higher priced items on a frequent basis such as art. I remember some time ago hearing that IKEA were one of the world’s biggest retailers of art and I would like to think that, for not much more, you can own something really unique and valuable from CultureLabel that’s worth that little bit of extra investment. In these challenging economic times, there is a lot of evidence that some people will spend less on practical items and save for luxury items that will last the test of time which we’ve definitely seen at CultureLabel in the past two years.

8 How do you keep the balance between large organisations such as Tate and the V&A and small galleries or individual artists such as Stuart Semple and VJ Von art?

Both are equally important to our eco-system. At our core, CultureLabel is about the diversity of the collections we curate and unique myriad of stories that we communicate to our audiences; this is only possible by bringing the major institutions together with independent and emerging talent.

9 What excites you the most about the upcoming year for CL?
I always look to what big exhibitions and events are happening each year. The Jubilee and Olympics were huge for us in 2012, as well as blockbuster exhibitions like Damien Hirst at Tate Modern and James Bond at The Barbican as well as regulars like Frieze Art Fair. We also have a lot of new features we are rolling out particularly around mobile, as well as some major brand partnerships and product development commissions too.

10 Your terms for artists seem very generous – how do you keep such a low commission base ?
As long as you have a big enough idea to create scale, the web allows you to construct business models that mean you can give artists and designers a good deal and create a profitable business. We are in this for the long haul and I really believe there is a huge global audience of people who want quality affordable art and the sales to date have shown this.

11 What do you buy from the site? And do your have any product recommendations for the FAD audience?
I spend way too much money on art! Therefore running CultureLabel is pretty hazardous for my wallet as we have got some pretty amazing artists on our books. I have my eye on the work ‘Untitled’ by Sir Peter Blake of Sergeant Pepper’s fame which he created for the Freud Museum. We also have a scheme that we operate for Arts Council England and Creative Scotland called Own Art online that allows you to spread the cost of artworks over 10 months with an interest free loan (0% APR) of between £100 and £2000 as long as you are based in the UK. This is a big part of the temptation for me as it means I spend that little bit more as it’s not all up front.

In terms of recommendations for FAD readers, I’m not sure the space in the interview would be big enough! This year, a good place to begin is by directly tapping into the CultureLabel community as we have introduced a new trending feature which surfaces products that our audience are buying and wishlisting. I also recommend the new Studio Voltaire collection featuring artist-designed accessories and prints from contemporary artists including Jeremy Deller, Clunie Reid and Matthew Darbyshire. I’m also a fan of Ohh Deer who create fantastical illustrations on anything from cushions to prints! Finally, for the ladies, the Ryan Gosling Colouring-in book is proving an immensely popular choice (probably no real surprise there).

See all this and lots more at

Pisser (Fountain II) Charles Lutz / New Museum £195.00 Signed and Numbered Edition of 50
Charles Lutz; 2011; 8″ x 2″ diameter; glass and rubber

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, a curation of the world’s most interesting culture, and Creative Director of FAD Agency, a strategy & creative agency working with brands to solve business problems using cultural tools. In 2008 following his passion for art he founded what has grown to become FAD magazine. FAD magazine is internationally recognized as a key figure within the emerging and contemporary art world, and has been selected as official partner by organizations as diverse as Moniker Art Fair, START, Volta and Christie’s. In addition Mark is a columnist for City Magazine.

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