World Wide Art Promotion is a proudly multi-faceted art-focused organization that is dedicated to promoting the work of noteworthy artists from all over the world, working in every genre and medium. The organization is the brainchild of Thomas Tunberg and his wife, Despina Tunberg. Thomas has many years of experience running galleries in the United States and Greece. A writer himself, Thomas studied art history and archaeology, and has worked in advertising as a copywriter and creative director. Thomas has been the chief editor and director of the three divisions of World Wide Art Promotion, World Wide Art Books, World Wide Art, and Artavita, since their inception. His wife, Despina Tunberg, is an internationally exhibited painter who was born in Greece. Recently, Thomas discussed his organization and his hopes for its future:
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: What inspired you to get into the art industry and how did you establish Artavita/World Wide Art? How did you select the names?
Thomas Tunberg (TT): My wife Despina Tunberg is a painter, and when she was very young had worked in a well-known art gallery in Athens. Twenty years ago, we opened an art gallery named OMMA in Greece, on the island of Crete. In addition to our gallery exhibition activity, we organized the Chania International Art Festival, which became a large and successful event, with over 200 artists from all over the world participating, and many thousands of visitors to each year’s exhibit. Unfortunately, after seven years, we lost the venue, a unique 16th century Venetian building, due to it being extensively damaged in an earthquake. From the beginning, we had the same orientation that we have today: to exhibit the works of the greatest possible variety of genres and media, and to feature artists from all over the world, whose work would not otherwise be seen in the place where we were active. Subsequently we opened a second OMMA gallery in Santa Barbara, California. We found, however, that having two galleries on opposite sides of the world was very tiring and not so productive.
MM: How did you start your publishing business?
TT: For each festival we organized, we created a large catalog featuring all the artists. These catalogs were in very high demand and became collectors’ items. So, we thought of creating an annual art anthology featuring artists from all over the world, something that would grow into a chronicle of the art in our times being created all over the world. Thus, “World Wide Art Books” was born. The name is, I think, an accurate description of what the books are. Our first publication, “International Contemporary Masters” Volume 1, came out in 2006. Every year a new book followed, along with by other titles with a similar approach. Currently we publish three titles, “International Contemporary Masters”, eleven volumes of which have been published to date, “Current Masters”, and “Important World Artists”. Each of these books comes out once a year. The books, which are juried, and each piece selected by us, have become a standard in the art world, with extensive distribution to art collectors, art lovers, and especially, art professionals. In addition to the print version, each book also exists in a digital version on our website – one can just click on the cover of each book, and then go through it page by page. Each year we also curate a large group show featuring the artists in the books published during that year, at the Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum in Las Vegas. The books are juried, and there is a participation fee. In 2010, we had another idea, to create a website where artists would upload their portfolios free, thus becoming a massive art resource. So Artavita was born. The name? Well according to our thinking, art is both a way of life and life itself! Currently, Artavita has over 13,000 member artists, from all over the world.
MM: What exactly does Artavita/World Wide Art do? For example, what services can artists expect from you?
TT: Even after closing the Omma galleries, we still continued our exhibition activity. We organized large group exhibitions in various venues, in New York, London, Athens, Istanbul, and many other cities. We began participating in large art fairs, such as Artexpo New York and Spectrum Miami. So currently World Wide Art and Artavita offer artists three basic things: participation in large art exhibits, publication in our books, and participation with online portfolios on Artavita.
MM: You run a website. How can artists join and is there a fee?
TT: To join Artavita is very simple – just go to the home page, sign up as either an artist or a gallery, and upload as many works as you like. Artists and galleries can also post announcements and articles on the Artavita newsletters. All this is completely free. Artavita also organizes art contests, with various prizes – our “Artist of the Month” contest, free participation in art fairs, artworks featured on the covers of our books, and so on, with a small participation fee of $15 per image.
MM: The World Wide Art division of your company deals with exhibits. What locations do you show in and how do you select the artists who partake?
TT: For 2017, we are exhibiting in New York, San Diego and Miami. For 2018, there may be additional locations. Artists who have participated in our books or are finalists in Artavita contests are automatically approved. But any artist can apply to exhibit with us, with no submission fee.
MM: How many artists do you presently represent and what have been the highlights of your career?
TT: We don’t represent artists on an exclusive basis, and in fact we are not artist agents. Our policy is to represent artists only for a particular show they are exhibiting in. That being said, over the years, we have published over 8,000 artists and also exhibited the works of thousands. There have been many highlights in my career in the art world. Every time we are informed that an artist’s inclusion in one of our books has led them to an important success in their career – something that happens not infrequently – is a highlight for us. Likewise, whenever an artist participating in an exhibition with us has an important sale or contact never ceases to be a highlight, however often that might happen.
MM: What are the most rewarding things about being an art industry professional and what advice can you offer to artists who are striving to become professional?
TT: I think the most rewarding thing is that I get to see and work with so many beautiful and fascinating creations, and to be of assistance to so many creative people. My advice to artists who are striving to become professionals is twofold: on the one hand, keep working and improving and expanding your creative horizons and techniques, and both the other, remember that to succeed as a professional, you also have to function as a business, with a plan, with marketing, and with a marketing and promotional budget.
MM: How do you envision Artavita/World Wide Art evolving over the next decade? Essentially, what are your grandest goals for the organization?
TT: We intend to keep developing the three areas where we are now active – publishing, exhibitions and online art. For sure there are going to be new developments that today we don’t imagine. We will need to have the imagination and flexibility to enter into these.