There has been a recent explosion of tech startups driving innovation in the interiors space – from Made.com, Loaf and Swoon Editions offering new limited edition furniture designs daily, to Houzz, combining marketplaces for professionals and for products, to notonthehighstreet.com and Etsy who are competing for market share on unique gifts and smaller decorative items.
The art sector has been slow to follow this trend, partly because of the high end’s resistance to tech solutions, not only because of technophobia, but also because of an aversion to transparency and efficiency, since so much money is made from under the table transactions.
But, here’s the big secret: there’s no reason why original art should cost a fortune. Not if you consider that there’s eight million independent artists in the world, only a fraction of whom are ‘needed’ in the traditional model –i.e – to be discovered by galleries. Plus millions of people around the world who would love something original and handmade in their home, who are willing to invest in great design and understand the ethical aspect of buying directly from the maker.
This is the opportunity that Swedish entrepreneur Jonas Almgren saw when he moved from New York to London in 2013. The son of an interior designer, with a tech background in Silicon Valley, he was perfectly placed to understand the opportunity and make it happen.
Fast forward three years and Artfinder is leading the way in using tech to bring original art to the mass market. An online marketplace supporting 7,500 artists in 103 countries, with a growing subscriber base of 500,000+ the London-based startup has recently unveiled, ‘My Artfinder’, a mixtape of personal recommendations for users, just like Spotify Discover Weekly.
Based not just on past purchases, but also on artwork you’ve loved on the site, plus what similar users are loving, ‘My Artfinder’ is a new, personalised homepage providing recommendations that are totally unique to you, as well as new artworks from artists that you follow.
The feature is crafted using a combination of population-based collaborative-filtering algorithms and Neo Technology’s graph database software, Neo4j.
As you become more addicted to the site (you will, trust us!), ‘My Artfinder’ evolves. The more artworks you love, the better it gets.
Jonas says, “We are the first e-commerce site in the art space to do this – this is a completely new way of shopping for art. Spotify didn’t invent the mixtape after all – it has been perfectly acceptable to like whatever music you like for hundreds of years now. And yet our competitors in the art world are still claiming to be able to hold up ‘the next big thing’ or ‘investable art’ as if it’s they are the gatekeepers of good taste. The world just doesn’t work like that anymore. Not in music. Not in art. Personalised recommendations mean you see art you want to see, like you listen to music you want to listen to. That’s how it should be.”
“Also, the rate at which art is being added to Artfinder has rocketed in recent months, which is why we’ve realised that personalised recommendations are absolutely key. Around 1000 new artworks are currently being added to the site every single day, so unless you’re refreshing our ‘new’ page every hour, there’s lots of great stuff you’re going to miss.”
The challenge ahead is going to be changing buying habits of consumers who are put off by that word ‘art’, but then we’ve seen such monumental changes happen across so many sectors in recent years. It’s all about positioning – we know we have a mountain to climb, but we have the people, the passion and the knowledge in place, so now we just need to make it fly!