Founded by Antonia Hrastar, Júlia Frate Bolliger and Rodolfo França, Süd is a new illustration agency with a core mission: to bring much more needed diversity to the international landscape by representing illustrators from the Global South.
The Global South is a term that brings together countries with a traditionally different socio-economic background to countries in the Global North (or “developed”, as they’re more widely termed). Recognising the little exposure artists in these regions receive, Süd aims to bring their perspectives and unique visual voices to wider audiences.
We interview Süd’s founders to learn more about the agency, its represented artists so far, and its plans for the future.
Tell us about Süd – how and why was it founded?
J – Süd was a dream project that somehow all three of us had in the back of our minds for a while. Rodolfo and I, being from a Global South country and working in the creative industries in Europe, knew how difficult it is for Global South artists to access the market here. And Antonia, being an European Art Buyer, struggled to scout artists beyond the Global North – so we all had a clear view of the lack of diversity in the field and wanted to work towards changing that. Rodolfo first had the idea of creating the agency while working as an Art Director at Axel Springer, and invited us to join.
R – Yes, at the time I noticed that whenever I invited illustrators from my network in Brazil to work on projects here in Germany everyone was extremely happy, both clients and artists. And I couldn’t help noting that there are many niche agencies focused on, for example, Scandinavian artists, but very few working with regions from the Global South.
A – And I, as an art buyer, often struggled to connect with artists abroad in my daily work: there was never enough time to scout and reach out to people across the globe, and I knew I was missing opportunities of doing wonderful collaborations. My clients always ended up working with the same European artists, who are of course amazing, but I had the ambition to be connected with the whole world and to enjoy the beauty and plurality of different visual languages: so founding Süd was the way to get there.
You are currently based in Berlin. How has this influenced your set up?
Berlin is an inspiring city, increasingly international and with so many art scenes as one can imagine. While it is one of the world’s most desired creative capitals, unlike London and New York that seem like “ready” cities, in Berlin there is a feeling that there is still a lot of room for starting new things from scratch: creating new project spaces, start-ups, festivals, etc. Our goal is to work digitally with the agency while having Berlin as a physical spot for showcasing illustrators from the Global South in Europe – which sadly had to wait a little because of the pandemic, but will happen soon!
What kind of relationship are you looking to achieve with your illustrators?
We want to grow together with our artists. We chose to represent a limited selection of illustrators at this first moment, so that we can work really closely. We listen to what the artists’ goals and dreams are, help them to develop a path to get there and support them in going into that direction. We want to work as a team with the illustrators we represent and hope to have very long term relationships based on trust and transparency with all of them.
How can the illustration world benefit from Süd? What can illustrators from the Global South offer to our industry?
Diversity is an asset and a necessity; that was clear for us in 2019 when we first got together to build Süd, but we believe it finally became crystal clear to the world in 2020. A non-diverse industry has no place in the future – should have no place in the present, if you ask us – and bringing artists from the countries that were historically exploited by countries in the Global North to play a role in its market is simply the only way to go. Besides, the industry will benefit incredibly from working with the different colour references, styles, ancestry influences and cultural perspectives that Global South artists show in their work.
What has been your favourite project, or challenge, so far?
We must say that so far our biggest challenge (and also our favourite part) of setting up Süd was to select the first illustrators we were going to reach out to. We spent over a year creating a database with so many inspiring artists, but we wanted to narrow them down to max. 10 first and then 20 so that we could keep a close relationship with them. To find the perfect balance between different styles was a tricky puzzle. And we did not want to replicate the lack of diversity the illustration scene in the Global South also has, so we wanted to actively find not only a good balance of styles but also of gender and race. We still have so many names in our list we want and hope to work with in the future, and we constantly receive amazing portfolios of artists wanting to work with us, so we can’t wait to be able to grow and take more people on board!
Being such a young agency, how are you looking to grow it in the years to come?
We started the agency representing artists from Brazil (where two of us are from), so we could put our networks to use. But we are also very excited about Süd’s next phase, in which we will reach out to artists further in Latin America, Africa and South Asia. The goal is to have a wide spread selection of amazing artists from different cultures in the Global South.
We are also very much looking forward, as everyone, to the post pandemic world in which we can invest in doing exhibitions, partnerships with festivals, talks, workshops, and working towards being a cultural platform for illustration from the Global South in Europe and beyond.
Many thanks to Júlia, Rodolfo and Antonia for their time and answers.
You can find more of Süd’s work and their artists on their Website and Instagram.