Tal Danai, who holds academic degrees in fine art, maritime commerce and law, alongside the rank of Sensei in Kyokushin Karate, has served during his career as the Director of International Marketing for Cybra Corporation and in 1989 assumed the position of Director of International Operations for the Commodity Spot Shipping Division of the Brazilian conglomerate SATRO. In 1993, he founded EcoLink, which restructured failing small businesses into highly profitable enterprises.
Danai founded ArtLink in 1996. Less than a year later, he pioneered the company’s partnership with Sotheby’s auction house to form ArtLink@Sotheby’s International Young Art Program, aspiring to introduce a new segment of emerging art into the global art market in a programme deemed by CNN as “the most exciting development in the art market in decades.”
In 2002, Danai introduced ArtLink as a group of expert art curators and consultants, supported by experienced art project managers, expert art purchasers and logistics professionals, to the hospitality industry. Since then, the company has curated and provided art collections for over 125 hospitality projects spanning 32 countries, including the Jing An Shangri-La Shanghai, the Four Seasons Resort DIFC Dubai, the Ritz-Carlton Herzliya, The Plaza Hotel in New York City, the Waldorf Astoria in Chengdu, the St. Regis in Cairo and the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London.
In 2014, ArtLink completed the art collection for Holland America Line’s MS Koningsdam, working in close collaboration with interior design practice, Tihany Design. The project’s success led to invitations to develop collections for both the ultra-luxury Seabourn Encore and Ovation ships, again with Tihany Design, as well as for Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam, which has just been completed. This is the first of a number of the Line’s ships destined to offer a new on-board gallery experience looking to engage guests more fully with the art. ArtLink is currently also curating art collections for Costa Smeralda and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection super yachts as well as for several luxury hotels around the world.
We caught up with Mr. Danai and quizzed him on his mixed background, on why art’s function surpasses simple decoration and how he’s making the art of our time available, accessible and affordable to the world.
I strongly believe that art’s function far surpasses simple decoration.
INSPIRATIONIST: What’s your background?
Tal Danai: My background is somewhat mixed: I completed three degrees in Art, Business and Law, and have worked in and owned businesses spanning a wide range of industries. However, as I look back on it all, I notice that there are four elements that can be found in most of what I’ve chosen to pursue professionally: an international outlook, pioneering attitude, entrepreneurial drive and adventurous spirit.
I: How did you fall in love with art and why?
T.D.: My mother was an artist, in fact, she still is. It was always a key part of my life growing up and my love for it has never wavered. So, when I had to choose between joining my father’s legal practice and taking the risky and unclear artistic path, it was inevitable that I would pick the latter. Back then, I had no idea that I would end up concentrating on the business side of the Arts, but one day a challenge that was too exciting to pass up presented itself and I followed it.
Art provides us with different ways in which we can approach our lives, view our realities and access our inner selves. It is part of our complex mechanism of self-awareness and is vital to wellbeing.
I: What lead you to the founding of ArtLink?
T.D.: A belief that I could change a world that had no market place supporting access to young and emerging art and artists.
I: What is your favourite part of your job?
T.D.: The ability to turn creative ideas into realities.
I: Where do you spend most of your time, and what does a typical day for you entail?
T.D.: ArtLink is a hub of creative people, seriously dedicated to what they do. Right now, we are curating collections for five major cruise ships and five luxury hotels, in addition to developing and running galleries on board 14 ships. Our projects are spread around the globe and executing them means coordinating with hundreds of artists, artisans and suppliers, working together to create exciting and engaging collections that take those who experience them on a journey.
I spend my time removing obstacles, managing relationships, keeping the big picture clear, developing new ideas and sharing my creative fervor with the team.
I: Can you describe an evolution in your work from when you began until today?
T.D.: So much has changed that it is hard to list it all. One major change is the birth of the young and emerging segment of the art market, which was ArtLink’s initial drive and that today represents the sale of nine out of every 10 artworks globally. That change has dramatically influenced the type of art exhibited and sold, its relevance to many more people worldwide, the pricing logic of art and a host of other impacts.
I find art in a hospitality project to be part of the design, the culture, the history and the overall sensitivities that the project entails.
I: You spoke at Maison&Objet this past September on the topic of “Art in Hotels: Part of the Design Story or Mere Decoration?“. Could you summarize in a few words the conclusions of your talk? The answer to the question?
T.D.: I strongly believe that art’s function far surpasses simple decoration. Art provides us with different ways in which we can approach our lives, view our realities and access our inner selves. It is part of our complex mechanism of self-awareness and is vital to wellbeing.
This is something that we at ArtLink bear in mind whenever we approach a project. We invest great effort in researching a project, working to understand its heart and creating a visual narrative that leads guests to it.
In short, I find art in a hospitality project to be part of the design, the culture, the history and the overall sensitivities that the project entails. If it also contributes a decorative layer, that’s a nice bonus.
I: Tell us a bit about ArtLink’s newest venture: introducing the world’s largest emerging art gallery aboard Holland America Line’s cruise ships. What is the aim of it?
T.D.: ArtLink’s defining mission is “making the art of our time available, accessible and affordable to the world”. To be true to our calling, I measure every business decision by that rule. The opportunity to introduce over a million passengers who travel with the Holland America Line ships to emerging art, artists and artisans who work out of the destinations visited by the ships, is a wonderful new development of our mission.
The art in the galleries on the ships is complemented by artists in residence, who will come and work on board; studio visits at points of call on the ships’ routes; and a whole host of enriching activities that are designed to immerse people in the art of our time and that enable a unique cultural exchange.
I love the craft side of art and an honest search for expression.
I: Which is your favourite work of art?
T.D.: I do not have a favourite work or artist. I love the craft side of art and an honest search for expression, and I deeply appreciate encountering alternative ways to reflect on what I hold as truth.
I: How do you unwind?
T.D.: I don’t!
I: What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?
T.D.: Mainly 18th and 19th century classical music.
I: What i s your favourite colour?
T.D.: Deep, dark grey.