ARTiSTORY appoints Markettcom to cover UAE and Saudi Arabia

Specialist in art and cultural licensing ARTiSTORY is continuing to expand its global operation with the appointment of Markettcom agency.

Capitalising on the growing appetite for Western museums in the UAE following the opening of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the forthcoming Guggenheim opening in Abu Dhabi, which is scheduled for 2025,  Markettcom will represent ARTiSTORY in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to work across licensing, LBE and estate development, to gain early entry into this expanding market.

The addition of Markettcom gives ARTiSTORY representation in this new territory as well as in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Benelux, Russia, North America, China, Singapore, S. Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

Markettcom is a media and licensing agency headquartered in Dubai with offices in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey, working closely with their partners and clients to grow their brand awareness and licensing business in the MENA region.

“I’m excited about the new partnership with ARTiSTORY,” Amer Bitar, CEO at Markettcom Limited comments. “We are very pleased with our new licensing partnership with ARTiSTORY, and we are confident we can grow the art licensing market in the Middle East. ARTiSTORY is an artistic content creator, and we will be able to utilise our strong expertise and relationships within the licensing and retail industry in the Middle East to introduce great innovative designs in that growing market.”

“We’re thrilled to be working with Markettcom,” says Natasha Dyson, co-founder and licensing director at ARTiSTORY. “It’s the perfect time for us to be expanding ARTiSTORY’s business in UAE and Saudi Arabia and with Amer’s background in art history, and extensive licensing experience, we couldn’t have found a better partner.”

Q&A: Natasha Dyson, co-founder of ARTiSTORY

A specialist in cultural IP licensing, ARTiSTORY was co-founded a year ago by industry trailblazers Yizan He and Natasha Dyson. Over the past 12 months the company has secured major partnerships with some of the world’s leading cultural institutions, including the National Gallery, London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Dunhuang, China, and the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

We caught up with Natasha ahead of the company’s appearance at Brand Licensing Europe this week to talk about how arts and culture licensing works in practice, and the company’s plans for 2022.

You’re a fairly new business. Can you give us a bit of background on you and Yizan and why you founded ARTiSTORY? 

We are indeed, we’re celebrating our 1st birthday at BLE.

Both Yizan and I have been working in the licensing industry for many years, gaining experience that compliments the other. I have a varied background working for agencies and brand owners, as well as my own consultancy, covering all sectors and age groups for the EU market. In fact, this year is my 20th anniversary in licensing.

Over the last 18 years Yizan has developed award-winning licensing programmes across Greater China and North America. He was voted one of the top 250 IP Strategists in 2011 by Intellectual Asset Management Magazine and regularly sits on the judging panel of the Premier Asian Licensing Awards and China Licensing Awards.

There are two key reasons that Yizan and I decided to set up ARTiSTORY. Firstly, art and culture licensing is one of the fastest growing sectors in the global licensing space at the moment.  Secondly, Yizan has spent the previous five years building multimillion dollar licensing programmes for the V&A, British Museum, National Galley, MFA and the MET in China, but his dream was to expand globally. When Yizan and I reconnected just before the start of the Covid pandemic, the idea to set up a business in Europe was born. This rapidly expanded into becoming the global business that we are today.

Can you explain how ARTiSTORY operates? What are your core areas of business? 

ARTiSTORY is a master licensee for our museum partners.  Our license provides us with an extensive range of product categories, everything from fashion to home goods, through topop-up stores and themed hotels, which we can sub-license to retailers, brands and manufacturers.

There are three core pillars to our business: creative development, licensing, and content developer.

ARTiSTORY invests in developing usable artwork that transforms “Artefacts to Merchandise” and appeals to our core target audience: Gen Z and Millennials, art fans and overseas audiences. We have an extensive team of creatives including researchers, designers, content writers and immersive experts, who not only create beautiful designs but ensure that we tell the story of each artefact or artwork though the content we develop.

Once the creative assets have been developed, we license these to global retailers, brands and manufacturers. Our licensing partners have access to exclusive pre-approved artwork that is delivered as layered files to allow customisation, and can immediately be used on products and packaging, thus reducing the time that licensees need to spend on the design and approval process.

Finally, we support our licensees by creating various forms of content such as narrative, live streaming from museums, short-form videos and social media challenges on TikTok. Licensees and retailers can break down the content to use for packaging, swing tickets, in-store POS and for digital marketing purposes. We also work with retailers and brands to create in-store immersive experiences.

Why do you think heritage licensing is such a strong sector at the moment? 

A key appeal to brands and retailers is the longevity and security that art and cultural licensing provides. The global pandemic has sped up the digitalisation of the museum and cultural sector and this digital shift is changing the way that younger demographics engage with art and culture. At ARTiSTORY we are designing digital, sharable tools and engagement strategies which are opening up the cultural world to entirely new audiences.

ARTiSTORY produces twice-yearly theme launches. Can you give us a sneak peek of what’s up and coming next year?

We have four trend led themes for next year:

Botanical Affairs – Taking inspiration from flora and fauna, the harvests from our land; bringing the outdoors in, we engage all senses, to appreciate the natural world around us.

Gathering of the Greats – With over 8,000 years of history within our museums, we catch a glimpse of some of the most creative, innovative makers of the art world.

Let’s Play – Theatre tickets ready, parties to celebrate, dancing across the floor and imagination galore… Entertainment is back, the 2020s can begin, Let’s Play!

Dunhuang – A UNESCO World Heritage site where spices were traded for knowledge, silks for imagination.

What would you like to achieve from BLE this year?

We’ve taken a stand (B219) to ensure we are visual to those who have read about us, but not yet met us. Our focus is on securing licensing partners, retailers and brands that can not only benefit from our having access to our exclusive designs, but also the content we provide for digital marketing.

We’ll be announcing our first licensing partners in the next month or so. I can’t give away too much now, but I can tell you these are multi-territory partners for us across apparel and home electronics. And we have some exciting new artist collaborations coming soon, so watch this space!

ARTiSTORY secures exclusive partnership with Dunhuang Culture and Tourism Group

ARTiSTORY has entered into an exclusive partnership with Dunhuang Culture and Tourism Group that will enable the pair to work to establish a new licensing programme for key markets such as North America, the EMEA, and Asia.

This historical, multi-year partnership is one of the firsts of its kind for a Chinese cultural IP to be licensed to global retailers and consumer brands outside China.

Dunhuang Inspiration, an art and cultural brand established by Dunhuang Culture & Tourism Group will be operating this licensing programme with ARTiSTORY. Based upon the city of Dunhuang’s abundant cultural and tourist resources, DCTG holds the exclusive operation rights to the city’s well treasured cultural heritage sites. 

The city of Dunhuang sits at a unique position along the historical Silk Road. Lying by the Gobi Desert and north of the Mingsha Sand Dunes, Dunhuang was an essential resting point for travellers passing between East and West one thousand years ago. The gathering of diverse people and cultures led to Dunhuang’s prosperity with great legacies such as the world-famous stucco sculptures and murals of Mogao Caves.

Dunhuang Inspiration is a brand designed with cultural creativity and vitality. It embodies DCTG’s commitment to preserve, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for the art of Dunhuang.

Through the partnership, Dunhuang and ARTiSTORY’s global creative team will collaboratively develop original design assets under annually refreshed themes such as “Voyage of Discovery” and “The Rhythm of Dunhuang” inspired by the world-class beauty of Dunhuang. Together, Dunhuang and ARTiSTORY will create a full spectrum of IP design assets such as illustrations, prints and patterns, badges, icons, colour palettes with narratives for licensees to use via merchandising, content marketing, online and offline retailing, and immersive experiences.

This will also help global retailers and consumer brands to engage more successfully with a global audience and speed up their market penetration in China, Japan, Korea, SE Asia, and beyond. 

Sun Xiaoqiang, chairman of Dunhuang Culture and Tourism Group, said: “Dunhuang culture is so profound that it requires our lifelong time to research and pass it on to our future generations. The Group, together with ARTiSTORY, will bring refreshed narratives of Dunhuang culture to a broader range of industries, blooming more brilliant light.”

Yizan He, founder and managing director of ARTiSTORY, added: “ARTiSTORY is delighted to partner with Dunhuang Culture & Tourism Group. We look forward to enabling global retailers and consumer brands to engage shoppers more effectively with art and cultural IP and storytelling.”

ARTiSTORY adds Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to its growing art and culture portfolio

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has become the latest cultural tourism hot spot to join the ARTiSTORY portfolio, offering the art and culture licensing specialist access to nearly 500,000 works of art to inspire designs to be licensed globally.

Founded in 1870, the MFA is recognised as one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world. Having first opened its doors to the public on July 4th, 1876, the Museum’s collection spans Egyptian, Greek, and Roman masterpieces, renowned works of art from the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Africa, and significant holdings of photography, prints and drawings, textiles, fashion, and musical instruments.

Meanwhile, launched in January 2021, ARTiSTORY’s vision is to extend the reach of its cultural partners to engage a wider global audience via comprehensive licensing programmes with global retailers, manufacturers, direct to consumer brands, and online retailers.

The programme reflects ARTiSTORY’s core capability of turning “Artefacts to Merchandise” and extends beyond with storytelling content through hybrid / digital exhibitions and immersive experiences, each supported by narratives that resonate with their targeted audience.

Katsushika Hokusai, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Alphonse Maria Mucha, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne’s masterpieces will be some of the sources of design inspiration for ARTiSTORY’s annually refreshed themes of design assets, including patterns, prints, icons, stories and immersive experiences.

“We at ARTiSTORY are very pleased to have signed this iconic American institution. Having worked with Debra at the MFA previously I know first-hand what incredible artworks we will gain access to, and the beautiful designs our in-house creative team can produce,” said Yizan He, Co-founder and CEO at ARTiSTORY.

Debra LaKind, senior director, intellectual property and business development at the MFA, said: “At the MFA, we believe in the power of art to bring people together and foster cross-cultural understanding. Our mission includes reaching beyond the walls of the Museum, by pursuing collaborative opportunities to share our diverse collections with world-wide audiences.

“ARTiSTORY is uniquely positioned to help expand the MFA’s global presence in creative and engaging ways through storytelling and merchandise, bringing art into the everyday life of the consumer. We are thrilled to be working with the team at ARTiSTORY.”