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New York Startup Artsy Raises $18.5M to Become Pandora for Fine Art (wsj.com)
60 points by sethbannon on April 3, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 31 comments



Artsy is focussed on a specific niche in the art market that is not the high end (ie $100k ++ work), but more what they would call entry level $5k - $50k works. Artsy (and some of it's competitors) help these entry level collectors to get a greater survey of what is happening and what is available in the art world. To date, this would have required travel to galleries around the world (mainly NYC for the past couple of decades) and/or travelling to one of the big Art Fairs (see Art Basel - a one week extravaganza where more than a billion dollars of sales is likely). If you have the time and access to those events, you will get a great survey in a couple of days.

Artsy simply brings that to your device/home/computer. They don't make sales, more make the introductions to galleries that are selling the work. It continues the overall art market movement away from bricks and mortar 'galleries' to online and art fairs.

The value add (pain point) that Artsy provides is the recommendation engine. This is unique (not sure how well it works from my experience on the site) and is crucial in a market that is always looking for the 'new' and 'exciting'.

The overall market is terrifying in that million dollar plus works are traded over .jpg form. That's why there is a significant cohort of art consultants that are paid to look a work in real life to provide the '3D' context.


I am an engineer at Artsy, ask me anything about how things work.


Somewhat off-topic, but I found your talk "Build & Scaling a Test Driven Culture"[1] incredibly valuable as we built out the engineering team at our startup.

It was a major influence on developing the pragmatic approach we've taken to automated testing at ePantry, and is required watching for our engineers. Thanks for creating it!

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvHf94hxzRc


Thanks for the kind words!


It's more of a business than engineering question, but I wonder what factors led Artsy to work within the gallery/show business framework rather than attempting to disrupt that.


This has always been in Artsy DNA. We want to bring existing players online, not compete with them. Galleries are very valuable as they establish a primary market for a new artist.


The Gallery/Show business provides two things: 1. Reputation/trust (especially for younger artists) 2. Reach to potential collectors The validation required to spend $5,000 vs $1,000 on a work is purely intangible, a reputable gallery and it's experts can make that difference. In terms of an artist selling to the market directly, you have to be a Damien Hirst, or similar, to have the brand in the market to support a direct sales infrastructure.


Are you guys hiring summer engineer interns?


As I replied on twitter, I think it's good form to also do so on here: send us an email at jobs@artsymail.com

We get a bunch so it usually takes a bit of time to get through but they all get looked at by someone.


As a contemporary artist you've got to be increasingly sure that your work looks damn good in .jpg form

(see: markets current preoccupation with bold, flat abstract works)


Fine art photography made a transition from all chemical to 90% digital, yet the manipulated RAW image is treated identically to a negative.

I find that remarkable. The other thing that's remarkable is how accepting people are of highly compressed and decimated jpg images on uncalibrated monitors for viewing the work of professional photographers (while wearing $400 headphones, listening to highly compressed mp3s).

It is also remarkable that Neil Young is among the first to try to fix the fidelity issue, for music anyway. I hope someone sees that photography and images of other fine art need something analogous.


On Neil Young, there were a bunch of FLAC-compatible portable music players on the market 2 years ago: http://www.cnet.com/news/best-mp3-players-with-flac/

* Free Lossless Audio Codec

The super-high sample rate stuff is totally bogus, and I say that as an audio professional of many years' standing. Neil Young is a nice guy, but Pono is basically a branding exercise, not a technical innovation.


Neil Young and his snake oil are nowhere near the first attempts to sell high fidelity audio. You're forgetting reel to reel tape, DAT, SACD, DVDaudio, HDtracks, and any number of other ventures.


Part of the difference is that audio is temporal, while an image is static. The odds of noticing an artifact in an well-compressed MP3 are small; the psycho-acoustic model is built on the assumption that many frequencies will be discarded by the brain anyway, and so the listener won't notice their absence.

However, an image doesn't change moment to moment, so the eye is free to wander and immerse, and thereby notice some oddly pixelated macroblocks that would have been ignored with a momentary glance.


Neil Young's player does thing like add in fake record pops to make things sound retro. It may or may not have a good DAC, but is mostly a gimmick device.


I find it interesting that some of the best audiophile education I got was on torrent sites. The scum of the earth apparently think hard about Laplace transforms


Instagram has sort of killed the concept of colour fidelity.


If this product or others similar to it can't properly depict three dimensional art—that is, using a format other than a static .jpg image—I'd say they're doing it wrong.


I saw on Twitter today that they landed Ash Furrow as a load iOS dev.


The mobile team is actually run by @orta of CocoaPods fame. We're definitely excited to have Ash join. We also have two beginner iOS devs (@1aurabrown and I) and we need some experienced guidance!


So they're planning to tell their paying customers that they value the ad-driven customers more, as Pandora told me in a job interview? The Future is Now!


Artsy is awesome! In particular I love that they have tons of high-resolution images available for free. Although their online gallery is pretty sweet, with a little effort you can download them in high-res for yourself [0].

[0]: https://github.com/peterldowns/artsy-download-script


Just to be clear, all the images aren't available for free. These are all copyrighted and we negotiate with rights holders which is expensive and complicated.

Artsy does have a number of images available free in the public domain. Please see https://artsy.net/post/christine-downloading-images-on-artsy.


For anyone who happens across this — I went ahead and took down the repo because I didn't want to encourage copyright violation.


Thanks Peter.


I thought they were trying to become the Netflix for fine art.

Or was that a tie company, and was it GameFly for... ties?

This is all getting very confusing.


You may be thinking of Artsicle [1]. Art.sy on the other hand has always had their sights set on a Pandora model.

1. http://www.artsicle.com


Worth a look too: http://artips.fr/en/


Isn't this more of an Etsy for fine art?


No -- Artsy maintains relationships with galleries, not individual artists.


“only very few people who could afford to buy are doing so. Many are held back by high barriers to entry, which Artsy is solving.”

Thank god.




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