Technology has made art more accessible than ever before, and no longer is it confined to the museum, nor to the art connoisseurs. The insurgence of startups focusing on the art market are redefining just what the term “art” embodies today.
With the rise of the digital age and its unstoppable integration into our everyday existence, the way in which we interact with almost every facet of life has been greatly revolutionized. We can now buy our groceries online and have them delivered straight to our door, consult our doctor over Skype, or track down a date for our pet. Opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures are ever increasing, and the growing interest in the art market is no exception.
Buying art online is on the rise, according to the 2017 Online Art Trade Report by Hiscox. It recorded an estimated $3.75 billion in 2016 — that’s a 15% increase from the previous year. In their 2013 report, 71% of those surveyed stated they bought artwork online without first seeing it in person, their decision making based on a digital image of the original. Art startups have zeroed in on the popularity and success of online shopping and are offering a new way for people to interact with art, ultimately changing the way in which we perceive it.
Let’s take a look at a few art startups that are aiming to change the rules of the game.
Second Canvas is an example of traditional art institutions embracing modern technology to come up with new ways of experiencing art. Museum visits are enhanced by the use of tablets and smartphones offering ultra-HD gigapixels, storytelling, gamification, education, and social sharing. It incorporates augmented reality so that you can X-ray certain artworks and see beyond the final coat. Second Canvas widens its target audience and includes those who may not initially be interested in art, giving them a chance to discover and explore the art world in a more exciting and interactive manner. One downside is that since all the content on Second Canvas is managed by the participating museums, the curating process can be slow as there are many people to consult with (directors, curators, experts, restorators, etc.). On the other hand, you can rest assured that the information you’re receiving is coming from a respectable source.
In 2015 the San Fransisco-based digital art startup introduced to the world the Depict Frame, a 49-inch 4K (they are now taking pre orders) screen bordered by an oiled American maple wooden frame. The Frame allows you to enjoy digital art curated by the Depict team in stunning high quality, right in the comfort of your home.
Self-defined as Spotify meets Itunes for Art, Loupe is an online art gallery that provides a constant stream of artistic visual content on your TV screen, desktop or mobile. When you come across something you like, simply click on the image and you will be given details on the artwork and the opportunity to purchase it in original or print form. Loupe also provides curated music playlists which match the mood invoked by the artworks you’re viewing.
Swiping right and left is no longer about finding a new date for Friday night. Headquartered in Switzerland, Wydr have adopted the yes/no binary and created an app that’s like Tinder, but for art. Suggestions aren’t dictated by experts but by the general public; therefore, the artwork you right-swiped may have been created by a lesser-known artist, giving opportunities to the underdogs and highlighting the subjectivity of taste. It can be argued, however, that simplifying art down to an instantaneous right or left swipe may reduce art to surface-level judgements made purely on visual appeal.
Photocircle is an art startup based in Berlin that allows users to purchase quality prints by photographers working around the world. What’s innovative about the business is that up to 50% of what you spend is donated to development projects in the country where the photo was taken. The startup is assisted by partner organizations such as UNO-Flüchtlingshilfe (the German partner of UNHCR), Schülerpaten, Plan International, KulturLeben and CARE, among a host of others.
Like Shazam for art, Artbit uses visual recognition to connect people with art in their local space. Discover, snap, and share to the perennially growing database and become a part of the art community. The goal is to add to and to intensify the physical experience of art. The app helps users who aren’t yet comfortable with art to gain some insight and information so that it becomes less daunting and instead more rewarding. Artbit hopes to address some of the restrictions faced in the museum, such as restriction of flash photography and lack of WIFI.