ArtFlock aims to disrupt gallery monopoly

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SEEDCAMP COVERAGE: The global art market is worth around $1 trillion a year, but just like the global music market it is ripe for disruption. Just as in music, there are many artists struggling both for recognition and to make a living from their vocation. But art galleries traditionally charge a whopping 40% commission on sales, and with fierce competition for physical space, it’s not easy to break through and achieve success.

ArtFlock.com aims to change that and become “the foremost online destination for the sale and promotion of original art and craft by the worlds’ freshest artists and makers”. The site launched in April/May and had 20,000 searches for art in its first month. It operates a ‘fremium’ model whereby basic accounts are free, and it’s possible to upgrade to a premium account for £4.99 a month or a ‘pro+’ account (which adds more customisation) for a one off £300 and £4.99 a month. Free accounts are limited to 200+ images and the pro accounts have unlimited storage.

Now, let’s just take a step back here. There are other online art galleries in the UK. Eyestorm notably started in 1999 and got a lot of press, but after ownership changes today it is more part of one specific physical gallery. ArtGallery.co.uk is a small site but doesn’t allow for the social networking or tagging around the art, as ArtFlock does, which is closer to a Web 2.0 model than most.

One of the keys behind Artflock is watermarking. There are two types of watermarking functionality. The FreeFolio account, places your name across the middle of images you select. The pro account allows you to select font, colour, position, size and opacity of the watermark.

Obviously you can sell work, but the site claims that artists are often commissioned on the basis of the work displayed. (It seems there’s a business model here to be explored – more “on demand art” as it were?).

Where ArtFlock gets disruptive in terms of the wider art market is that it takes a commission on sales of 10% on pro accounts and 25% on free accounts, substantially less than the 40% of the average physical art gallery.

Founder Ed Lea has bootstrapped the site since launch. It has 850 artists so far and £350,000 worth of work available on the site. Future plans include being able to allow users to upload a picture of the room where they will display the art and then place a virtual copy of the work inside a room in their home to see how it would look.

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