Founded in 2012, Martinez Art Dealer is a Sydney based gallery and dealership, showcasing works from well-known Australian and International artists. Serafin developed his business after years of collecting and appreciating art to the point where he had built up a collection too large for his apartment.
“After I had built up a pretty sizable private art collection, I started listing a few pieces for sale on eBay in 2012. I realized I had bought too many for our Surry Hills apartment, so my original thought was to buy art, enjoy it for a while, then sell it and buy something new. However, it was through this that I met numerous gallerists, art dealers, wholesalers and artists – then my business was off and running”, Serafin says.
After immersing himself in the art world for years, Serafin wanted to showcase and share not only well-known Australian and international artists, but also young, up-and-coming talent.
“The art world is so exciting: you never know what is around the corner. There are so many talented artists out there yet very few get the recognition they deserve – whether that’s being hung in a gallery or sold and shared online,” he continues.
Early on as he was building his business, Serafin knew he wanted to develop an online store as well as have some form of brick-and-mortar gallery. While building his online store he was able to secure some space in a very convenient location.
“Shortly after I started I was able to acquire a large storeroom in the basement of my apartment building. I managed to convert the space into a gallery and it became the physical location for my dealership”, says Serafin.
Serafin mostly stocks and collects traditional works and paintings; however, he also sees the evolution of the art world with respect to digital image capture technologies. Digital imagery and photography may not have the same appeal to some as more traditional artwork, but Serafin believes it still has a special place in the art world.
“While digital imagery may only be a small part of the art world, it can be just as special and collectable as traditional art and painting. Take the photographic work of Bill Henson for example. His work is mysterious and beautiful and still highly collectable”, Serafin explains.
While the art market is buoyant, one of the first challenges Serafin had to overcome was the idea that art has always been viewed as a luxury item and not traditionally affordable.
“Buying art is essentially like buying a luxury item. I soon realised that I had to cater for budgets anywhere between $200 and $20,000 to accommodate for my whole customer base. The main challenge was in building the business around this range of sales, but now, five years later, I have over 300 works on offer for pretty much every budget.”
In another effort to make artwork more affordable and accessible to more people, Martinez Art Dealer is a participating Gallery in the Art Money Scheme that aims to make it easier for people to purchase artwork.
“I’m really proud to be part of the Art Money Scheme. After paying a 10% deposit, a client can take their artwork home and pay the remaining balance over nine months, completely interest-free. It’s a really great initiative to make artwork more affordable, particularly for first-time buyers”, says Serafin.
One of the things Serafin prides himself on is the customer experience and single point of contact at Martinez Art Dealer. He is a strong believer that buying artwork should be a personal experience and does everything he can to ensure unique and personalised service for his clients.
“I offer a ‘search-and-seek’ service, should clients see any artwork the like that we don’t currently have in stock. I draw on contacts and networks to see if I can source the piece for the client at the best possible price.”
“Attention can sometimes be lost in a normal walk-in gallery, that’s why I like to offer clients a unique, ‘looked after’ experience. I open my Sydney gallery by appointment and even offer a home service to Sydney clients, where I can bring art to a client’s home for viewing. My clients love this extra level of service – seeing the artwork in their home rather than online or in a gallery can make a huge difference.”
Martinez Art Dealer is essentially open 24/7 online and Serafin strives to respond to client queries and offers within the same business day, even delivering art within two to three business days in some cases. However, he also acknowledges that business ownership can be a 24/7 job and maintaining a healthy work/life balance can sometimes be difficult.
“I always make sure that I have time out when I need it and think I manage it quite well without disrupting the business or burning myself out. I love what I do, which makes it easier and keeps it exciting, and I think that’s important for any small business owner.”
Serafin is conscious of his online presence and its importance in his business, particularly on social media. He regularly posts news and updated artwork listings on his Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages for Martinez Art Dealer. He also sends out monthly newsletters to clients and subscribers to increase engagement. The one thing he wishes could tell himself (or other business owners) when first starting, would be to make these a priority.
“Operating under your own domain name and having a solid social media presence across Facebook and Instagram business pages is invaluable. Even though it wasn’t as prevalent when I started as it is today, I wish I had started building my online presence at the beginning of my business, rather than halfway through. Social media is a really powerful tool for any small business just starting out”, says Serafin.
Like any business owner, Serafin has both long and short-term goals for Martinez Art Dealer. While he dreams big and wants his business to be as successful as possible, he also grounds himself as a realist and focuses on challenging himself rather than unrealistically benchmarking himself against other businesses.
“Continued growth, small steps at a time. That’s the goal in the short term with the continued growth of my social media presence. In the long-term, I would like to develop a larger international client base and share the amazing Australian artists that I stock overseas as well.”
When asked if he has any advice for new business owners just starting out, or aspiring business owners who are still thinking about taking that first step:
“Baby steps, dip your toe in the water first if you have to. Use the people and resources you have around you and do your research, it might not always be good to dive right in – the water might be shallow”