It’s not easy to find original art for your home: Most first-time buyers feel like they’re priced out or are not knowledgeable enough to crack the non-transparent art world. A new startup called ARTtwo50 seeks to change that, with an iPad app that with a simple pricing structure and the ability to preview art in your space before you buy it.
ARTtwo50 was founded by Ethan James Appleby, Patrick Coughlin, Win Raguini, and Brandon Flayler. The original idea came out of a Startup Weekend after Appleby was trying to find art for his wall. But a lack of confidence in being able to find just the right piece, as well as lack of transparency around pricing, stymied his plans to add some original art to his home.
The team started to build an iPad app that would not only let art lovers “see” what a piece would look like in their homes, but also demystifies the pricing model for art. ARTtwo50 works like this: Users take a photo of the wall that they want to hang a piece of art on, pick the size that they would like, and the app suggests art they might like and allows them to see what it would look like in that space.
Users of the app can flip through various works of art to evaluate them. When they find one they like, they can save it for later. The app also provides more info about the artist and the piece that they’re looking at. And it also learns over time the type of art that they like, providing more personalized recommendations over time. It takes into account all users interactions with the art to determine which pieces are most likely to please a customer.
Even so, if users aren’t sure about whether or not they want to buy a certain piece, they can share it with friends to see what others think of the art and possible placement in their homes.
Once they’ve chosen a piece, and it’s time to check out, that’s when things get real interesting. That’s because, in addition to helping users to choose art that they’ll like and will look good in their homes, the startup has also worked to demystify the pricing structure of the art world. All art sold through the app is priced at $250, making it more accessible to people interested in adding original art to their homes.
By making all art available at the same price, ARTtwo50 seeks to make the process of buying and selling art more transparent and accessible. And it took away one of the biggest barriers to first-time art buyers — that is, the fear of paying too much or having buyer’s remorse afterward.
To make that happen, the startup has spent the last six months recruiting more than 500 artists to make their work available on the platform. It currently has about 1,500 pieces available for browsing and purchase, and continues to add more every day.
Many of those artists are students, people who were creating art in various Art Institutes, while others are people who might have 9-5 jobs but like to work on art on the side. In either case, ARTtwo50 is seeking to create a market for emerging and young artists that was previously filled by friends and family.
While pieces might be priced below what they would sell for at gallery shows, the ARTtwo50 founders believe that artists could make more money on some work, simply because their commissions are so much lower than when selling through a gallery. The startup takes a 20 percent commission for each piece sold, while also exposing artists to new potential customers that probably wouldn’t have seen their work otherwise.
In that respect, ARTtwo50 is seeking to solve two problems at once: first, the black box pricing of the art world today; and second, the lack of original art that is hanging on people’s walls.
UPDATE: An earlier version of the story said ARTtwo50 took a 10 percent commission rather than 20 percent. That was my fuckup. –rkl