Danish startup Artland is building a social marketplace for the art world and its key players: Galleries and professional collectors, while also hoping an app-based approach helps onboard a new generation of art buyers.
The team’s overarching mission is to make art buying more accessible and thus widen the sales pipe. The core problem being that galleries aren’t typically short of artworks to hang on their walls. What they really need is more buyers’ eyes in front of exhibited works.
On a more abstract level, galleries do probably also need to up their sales game to compete in an era of selfie culture and trivial digital generation providing plenty of low cost, taste-customized printable fodder for consumers to fill up their walls. (Not that you’d call it art, but, well, wall space is finite.)
“The art market is a complex and regulated market meaning there’s a lot of players in there, and it’s difficult to understand what it’s all about,” says co-founder Mattis Curth, who along with his brother and co-founder Jeppe only stepped foot in a gallery for the first time in early 2016. That experience led them to the idea for Artland as they felt the art market lacked transparency and could be more welcoming to newcomers.
“The vision of Artland is to make art more accessible to a broader audience. And lower the barrier to enter the market,” he adds. “What we do is to build on the principles of social media. Because that is how we can target the new generation of art buyers.
“Right now we position ourselves as the only social art market… That means we are the place for collectors to connect with each other and the first place for collectors to share their collections online.”
There are some pretty sizable players in the online art market space these days. New York based Artsy, founded back in 2009, pulled in a $50M funding round this summer, for example, for an auction-focused art marketplace that’s valued at $275M.
Plenty of other art e-tail businesses are also well established selling artworks online — such as the curated, contemporary selection offered by a site like Rise Art.
There are even some more recent no-barrier-to-entry startup approaches, like ‘Tinder for art’ startup Wydr — which lets anyone upload artworks for sale, and directly connects those artist/artwork owners with potential buyers who get to swipe through photos of the works in its app (effectively playing the gallery role itself, just without any curation).
Artland’s positioning is definitely not another ‘Tinder for art’. All the artworks for sale on its platform are by artists who have gained gallery representation already so are likely more established (and thus probably also of more interest to professional art buyers/collectors).
Though users of the app can view a wider selection of artworks via the app too, not just those available to buy, as collectors can publicly share uploaded images of the works they own with the community.
Curth says the difference in positioning between Artland and Artsy is a focus on collectors — with Artland offering free tools for art collectors to register and manage their collections.
The 2016-founded startup launched its iOS and Android apps this September — and has around 10,000 registered users at this early stage, plus 60 galleries onboarded.
The team is seed funded, though it’s not publicly disclosing how much money it’s taken in yet. It will say it counts prominent art collectors from the Nordic region among its investors, as well as business angels.
The aim, say the co-founders, is to serve rather than disrupt existing players in the art space. Artland’s business model is thus firmly attached to galleries — selling a subscription service for which they also get to showcase the works they have for sale in their galleries on its platform (to sweeten the deal, it says it only starts charging the monthly fee after a gallery sells their first work).
Galleries also get to be listed and visible to the app’s community of art enthusiasts and buyers, and can add details of their upcoming exhibitions and events.
Artland’s other focus is on serving art collectors’ needs — via free tools to create a digital register of their collections — as this is the group it most needs to join the community to drive art sales and encourage galleries to pay its monthly fee. There could also potentially be additional future revenue streams attached to this group by cross-selling insurance services.
The app is free for collectors to upload content, or for anyone to browse. Collectors uploading works also get visibility controls which let them maintain a private register within the app, should they prefer, or share access to their collection — including selectively.
They can also make their collections public for all other users of the app to browse and comment on if they choose.
“The main pain point [for art collectors] is the registration of collection,” says Curth. “What many of them try to do is to do it in a spreadsheet… but it’s so difficult for them to keep doing that. Because it’s complex or it’s irritating to do. And what has been built into the product from the beginning has been this privacy that needed for them to do that.
“That means you can be totally private, which means the other [user] has to request and be accepted to get inside and see what you have. You can be public of course, or you can be an alias or choose between those things — and that’s where one of the sweet spots are, is that we can help them with insurances. And insurance companies can manage the portfolio through that.”
After a collector uploads a picture of a work and adds the artist’s name, the platform foregrounds any other collectors with works by the same the artist, as well as highlighting all galleries, exhibitions and works on the platform by the same artist.
“This gives you an overview of all data that is available in combination with your own data. You will no longer be searching for information they come to you,” adds Curth.
So again the focus is on serving a community of art enthusiasts by helping them connect with each other and discover relevant content.
Plus, of course, if a collector already knows an artist’s work they may well feel more comfortable buying another of their works remotely via the app — i.e. without having to see it in person, via a physical gallery visit. Familiarity and quality are important sales factors here too given artworks can be expensive.
Many art buyers may well already be trawling mainstream social networks like Instagram seeking new art to feed their passion. Artland’s conviction is that this group can be persuaded to take to a dedicated social network to aid the art discovery process via familiar social media mechanisms (likes, comments, follows and so on). As well as because of the free tools it’s giving them to manage their collections.
For artists, the platform offers at least another place for showcasing their work by letting them upload a viewable (though not directly sellable) portfolio — potentially helping them build relationships with galleries and art collectors which could lead to sales down the line (but again, the only artworks that can be bought via the app are those galleries are exhibiting).
“There are many leads but not enough relations,” says Curth of the general dynamic of the art market — an imbalance Artland is hoping its platform can address.
“If you look at the art market as such it’s a €54BN market. The online market has just started to grow — 20 per cent last year… and the galleries know they have to be a part of it. The buyers know there has to be solutions. So there are very, very huge opportunities right now,” he adds.
Another quirk of the art market is that many artists are also art collectors themselves — as a consequence of swapping their own works for works by other artist friends. So Artland reckons they too might value the app’s free collection management tools, giving them further incentive to join its community.
While for newcomers to art buying and collecting the app can also function as a bit of an art history database — offering info on artists and art movements, as well as the ability to browse others’ collections for inspiration and view core market info (so those upcoming exhibitions and art fairs).
Here Artland is also serving its core customer again by featuring interviews with listed gallery owners, as another relationship building strategy to help buyers and artists get to know them.