Zach Nossel is the art curator at Superbalist.com, a local online art, design and style retailer. While the traditional role of an art curator has been in existence for ages, selecting art to sell online is a whole other ball game. We caught up with Zach to chat about exactly what his job entails.
What is your background and how has this led you to be an online art curator at Superbalist?
I began my studies with a good old BCom. Once I was done with that I knew that I had to feed my creative side so I went to Vega in Johannesburg and specialised in design and art direction. While finishing my degree I spent time interning as an art director at an agency in New York City. Straight after my studies I spent a good amount of time in the local advertising world, which is where I really grew my passion for design and art. My seniors and creative directors placed a massive emphasis on me growing my knowledge of the design world and it became an obsession. I became glued to the blogs that I followed, collected any little design piece I could get my hands on and spent the majority of my day perving over all the beautiful things that the creative masterminds were making.
When I became aware of what Superbalist (then Citymob) was starting to do in terms of curating design and making it accessible to South Africa, I had that moment of thinking, “Oh, someone just went into my thoughts, looked at what my dream job would be and created it”. I just had to get the job, and I did.
What do you do at Superbalist on a day-to-day basis?
I am the Art Curator. However, as simple as it sounds, it actually involves more than I know as my job is constantly evolving. The day to day work is mostly searching the world (obviously including South Africa) for the best art, illustration and design there is. It is not only about searching for it but making it accessible in the sense that it is art that our customers can afford and collect. This is where the business or buying side comes in. Negotiations with artists, art houses and galleries can be tricky but offer new and exciting challenges all the time.
Then there is the production of artwork that we license to be printed on a range of mediums. Our art on demand category allows our customers to purchase a design on all sorts of mediums and managing our production partnerships and logistics is another part of the job. Overall my day could see me anywhere from a printing factory to a CMT and ending off at an exhibition of some sorts.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to be a professional football player, skateboarder, graffiti artist and video game designer all at the same time.
What are some of the challenges of curating art to sell online?
I would say that there are two big challenges. Firstly, satisfying all the different taste levels out there – everyone has a different way of looking at things and the most challenging but exciting aspect of curating art online is educating our customers to look at art with similar eyes. We have a platform where South Africans are looking to us to find out what they should be hanging on their walls and satisfying every pair of eyes is, for me, the most exciting challenge.
Secondly, the intangibility of a product on screen is another challenge we as the curators at Superbalist tackle on a daily basis. From an art point of view I am constantly challenging how to make our customers feel as if they are putting this art on their own walls, feeling the texture of the paper or walking through an actual gallery, just by looking at their screen.
What do you love most about your job?
The environment at Superbalist puts any creative agency to shame and I say this after spending time interning at an agency in the Google building in Manhattan. Everyone here is young, driven, tasteful and on the same mission. Our offices are beautiful and situated in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock and the level of creativity is unlike any other.
I also love the close interaction I have with the creativity that South Africa is busy producing. Dealing with international artists as well as the locals, there is clearly something going on here that in my opinion is rocking the creative world and working so close to it creates all sorts of happiness.
Which specific characteristics and skills does it take to do what you do?
Passion, patience and the ability to work closely with others.
What’s hanging on your wall at home?
I am a massive illustration fan and my collection is made up of illustrations from Am I Collective, Kronk, Christi Du Toit, Gerhard Human and Jaco Haasbroek. There are a couple of international pieces from the likes of Joe Ledbetter and Mcbess that I am very proud of.
What do you do when you’re not working? And how does this influence your work?
I spend time with my significant other and friends. Exploring the Mother City is where my down time is spent, which is constantly inspiring me in some way or another.
Which other local creatives inspire you, and why?
This is an easy one. The band John Wizards are the most inspirational creatives at the moment. Taking something African and making waves with it internationally in the way that they are doing it is super rad. From an art point of view, I dig to look at the kids coming out of the local design schools. There is some serious local talent creeping up on us, illustrators like Christi du Toit and Maaike Bakker are just two examples of young local creatives that are truly inspirational.
Any exciting plans for the art department at Superbalist?
Yes – there is a lot! Most exciting is our monthly feature on emerging artists in the country. The other stuff you’ll just have to wait and see…