How Artsy finally convinced galleries to sell fine art online

The move online has been one of the critical forces shaping the industry over the last decade, a disruption that happened slowly, and then suddenly. “It’s a huge change in what galleries have done. It’s been the biggest trend in the art market, next to art fairs, over the last ten years,” says Clare McAndrew, a leading art market economist. “The biggest driver is the wider acceptance of e-commerce. This is how collectors buy everything else, so why not art?” After closing their physical space, Weiss and Martinsen focused on crafting an online business, Gates of the West, and cultivating their brand through social media.

This new paradigm is powering the success of Artsy, a New York City-based startup that this morning announced it had raised $50 million in fresh venture capital. The company’s offering is far more open and approachable than the traditional art world. Every piece is available through a search engine that can filter by style, time period, or price. The service uses algorithms to understand what kind of art appeals to users and then recommends other works they might enjoy, or buy. Instead of the rarefied, sterile walls of a Chelsea gallery, users swipe to browse. Artsy makes shopping for art as unassuming, and as pedestrian, as using Tinder.

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