Technology and art are intersecting in more ways than ever, and today’s art startups are revolutionizing the way art is consumed and collected. Entrepreneurs have been intersecting art and technology since the start of the .com boom. Portfolio sites, like Deviant Art, Flickr, and SmugMug started the trend, using the internet in ways that we hadn’t been seen before. Then came online photo printing services, like Snapfish or Shutterfly, along with bookmaking companies like Blurb. Today’s digital art businesses are a little more complex – they use technology to intuit what kind of art you’re likely to enjoy, develop innovative systems for gallerists to categorize and catalog their works, and make art collecting accessible to anyone who wants in on the billion-dollar industry.
At Orangenius, we’re busy developing our own portal for artists and creatives. As we’re building out our new site, we like to take a look around at what some of the best companies in the art startup scene are up to. Here, we dish on our five favorites and what makes them so great.
If anyone is crushing the art startup game, it’s Artsy. Artsy is an online platform that has a mission to connect millions of users to an infinite amount of artworks. Founded in a Princeton dorm room, Arsty was launched in 2010 and almost instantly regarded a success. Partnering with galleries, foundations, museums, art fairs, and auctions, Artsy hosts an online database of over 350,000 images of art, architecture, and design by over 50,000 artists.
At least half of Artsy’s inventory is on sale, and with prices ranging from $150 to $3 million, Artsy has developed a platform that truly does make art accessible to the masses. And every time a gallery makes a sale on Artsy, Artsy charges them three percent of the sales price for the trouble. At Plus, Artsy uses its platform to educate, too: It’s an excellent resource for anyone looking to become familiar with the art world and the collecting industry – from staying up to date on who’s making what and showing where, or which upcoming exhibitions might be worth checking out. Currently, Artsy has over 600,000 users and counting.
Founded in 2011 by a former gallerist who got tired of sifting through cumbersome binders, Artbinder was created to give art galleries a new way to manage their inventory. Artbinder users simply upload their collection’s images to their personal Artbinder iPads, which they can then use to showcase works online while also keeping better track of what’s available and what’s been sold. In exchange for the iPads, Artbinder charges a monthly fee. ArtBinder’s technology has been redesigned over 200 times, ensuring it’s the absolute best version possible. The latest iteration includes Artbinder Viewer, curated exclusively by Artbinder, which functions as a sort of social media network for galleries. Users can view and request information from galleries across the globe, search for exhibitions by time and location, and brose detailed information on artists.
Artsicle helps art lovers find their favorite artists by asking them to take a simple quiz. Users who sign up take a brief survey that assess their design preferences by their taste in interior design, cocktails, and cars. Then, Artsicle suggests works by their partner artists, who host samples of their work entirely for free. Part of what makes Artsicle unique is its mission, which revolves around making sure artists are both marketed and fairly compensated for their work. Often times, it’s difficult for an artist to obtain gallery representation when they haven’t really made a name for themselves, so allowing artists to host their work online through a reputable platform allows them to maximize their visibility and potential to sell. Once a buyer has selected a work they love,
Often times, it’s difficult for an artist to obtain gallery representation when they haven’t really made a name for themselves, so allowing artists to host their work online through a reputable platform allows them to maximize their visibility and potential to sell. Once a buyer has selected a work they love, Artsicle allows the potential buyer to pay a monthly fee of $50 for renting privileges. Once a renter’s selected piece is delivered to her home, they can either keep it for as long as they’re willing to pay the $50 monthly fee, purchase it or exchange it for another piece to test out. According to Artsicle, their model allows everyone benefits from the impact of art in our communities, and we most certainly agree.
*Editor’s Note: Since the original date of publication, Artsicle has since shuttered operations. The company made an official statement in June 2017.
Arthena is revolutionizing the way art is collected. Rather than selling to collectors on an individual basis, Arthena uses crowdsourcing principles to create groups of investors that buy into one collection, which they allow to appreciate over time before its sold. Arthena partners with experienced art experts in order to create each collection, which is set up as a fund and governed by SEC regulations. The expert curates the purchases based on their viability and projected growth within the market – they’ll choose artworks by undervalued, modern artists who are producing works that could rapidly appreciate in value and have a significant margin of growth potential within five years, the length of an investment in any one fund.
Each collection will have numerous works, and the minimum investment for any collector is $10,000, but the company is working on reducing that figure to $2,500. The works an Arthena collector buys into are kept in fine art storage and loaned out to museums and galleries, and although investors in collections may not be able to see their artworks on a daily basis, they will be able to track their investments in the digital space: Arthena’s team of analysts report performance of the pieces on a digital dashboard, providing constant updates about the performance of an artist’s work in the market.
Artspace is one of the first and most recognizable online art marketplaces. Founded in 2011, creator Catherine Levene was confident that the art world would soon evolve to e-commerce, similar to the way fashion did in the 1990s. When it launched in 2011, Artspace’s art inventory had an estimated value of about $8 million. Today, the site hosts over $100 million worth of art on its platform, with over 2,000 active artists from 400 galleries loading artworks into its marketplace. Artspace’s inventory is decidedly high-profile: users can purchase works by Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, and Damien Hirst, among scores of notable others, but the site also offers works for as little as $200. Don’t know much about the art world? That’s okay, too – Artspace offers curatorial service and insider advice on which pieces are sure to get the most bang for your buck
Are there any other art startups you love? Let’s us know in the comment section below.