Category: Innovation

Recent art market technology reading

Filtering the web for art market technology news so you don’t have to! Here are some items of interest over the past few weeks.

  • Fast Company profiles a number of startups targeting the intersection of authentication and display of digital art (For Digital Art, Watermarks Aim To Bring More Aura—And A Hotter Market). Depict integrates authentication and watermarking software with a HD display device, while Electric Objects is developing digital art frames. Whether watermarking technology could help the digital art market develop a mature secondary market is discussed. The article concludes with an observation from Jacob Ciocco, a New York-based digital artist: “Art is about always questioning value within a contemporary context. And if a certain type of value is defined—watermarking—then another artist will always find a way to subvert that. It’s what art does really well,”
  • The Association of Art Museum Directors has published “Next Practices in Digital and Technology”, a collection of 41 US-based case studies of the application of digital technology in a museums context covering a wide range of topics: 3d printing, access programs, apps, collections management, education, in-gallery technology, interpretation, membership, multimedia, open data, publications, research, social media, and visitor services.
  • The Guardian is running an occasional series on “young creatives doing interesting and innovative things at the intersection of art and technology.” The latest piece is a commissioned interview with the CEO of Cuseum, one of a growing list of location-aware apps for museums and exhibitions, including some pointers to other uses of technology in museums.

Planning an art market startup? Then you need to watch this.

In the first of a series of ‘MOOC’ lectures to be published online by Stanford University as part of its CS183B class, Sam Altman (@sama), President of Y Combinator describes ‘How to Start a Startup.’ Drawing on nine years’ of advice to startups, Altman focusses on the 30% of practical advice Y Combinator has given to their portfolio companies that’s applicable to any startup. Based on a hugely successful 2012 course on the same topic by Peter Thiel, this year’s course includes a roster of stellar speakers, including Paul Thiel again, Paul Graham, Marc Andreessen and Marissa Mayer. Altman is publishing all materials including slide decks and further reading lists on a GitHub site, and the annotatable full text of lectures is available on

Digital museums: lessons for the art market?

What lessons could the art market – particularly galleries – learn from the innovative and increasingly second-generation digital projects taking place in many parts of the museum sector? In “Post-web technology: what comes next for museums?” published on The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, Mia Ridge and Danny Birchall list a number of digital experiments and research projects which museums are undertaking, such as:

  • Lightweight low-budget mobile tours using WordPress and GPS technology to deliver rich experiences on a limited budget
  • Experiments with wearable and augmented technology
  • An EU-funded project to investigate embedding digital content in ‘smart objects’
  • A shared innovation model for smaller institutions through multi-participant projects

These topics and more will be discussed in November’s UKMW14: ‘Museums Beyond the Web’ conference organized by the UK Museums Computer Group (@ukmcg). Ridge and Birchall’s article concludes with a statement that should resonate for anyone working in the digital art world:

Through projects like these, what we used to think of as a “digital” mindset is starting to become widespread in some cultural heritage organisations. The ethos of user-centred design and rapid iteration associated with digital projects is crossing from the digital realm into the physical environment.

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High touch meets high tech in Christie’s ‘James Map’

The most digital-savvy art businesses are developing business intelligence systems to support their digital sales strategies. In the context of a booming contemporary art market and the fact that one in four of the top lots in this spring’s evening sales were bought by new customers, John Dizard writes in Friday’s Financial Times (Auction houses embracing digital technology to sell to the new global rich):

While the most visible aspect of the houses’ digital revolution may be their online auctions, the most essential is in the systematising and networking of their customer, market and lot information.

Christie’s Steven P. Murphy echoes statements he made in previous months about the imperative driving his business’s digital strategy. Their customers were researching and purchasing art online. Christie’s needed to create “a digital version of the Christie’s experience in a platform-agnostic way.” A key part of Murphy’s digital strategy is an internal customer data intelligence platform called ‘James Map’ which joins up customer information throughout Christie’s and makes it available to Christie’s staff globally through internal applications. Whenever and wherever a customer interacts with Christie’s, all intelligence about them will be at the fingertips of Christie’s staff. quotes Christie’s Ken Citron, head of IT: “We are a global company now, with global clients. Our having technology allows them to have a consistent experience across the world.”

A fundamental question about digital strategy is behind Christie’s latest digital investments: Is there greater benefit in outsourcing technology and platform provision, or in in-house development (at considerable cost). Sotheby’s partnership with eBay is an example of the former; Christie’s is betting on the latter. Dizard’s article closes with a warning from Murphy about the dangers of disintermediation in digital markets. Perhaps with his publishing background, Murphy is thinking of how publishers have been disintermediated from their market by Amazon, a fate he is determined to avoid at Christie’s. Sotheby’s (and particularly Dan Loeb) will doubtless be watching with interest.

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Don’t copy, embed! Getty Images opens its images to online sharing in “disruptive” move

In a radical – and controversial – move designed to increase its online reach and discourage copyright infringement, Getty Images now offers an embed option throughout its database of 35 million images for non-commercial use. Aimed largely at the online blogging community, images are embeddable as iframe code in the hosting web page. WordPress (host of Art Market Technology) already have included support for the embed option, saying “We have been working with Getty Images over the past few weeks” on the feature.

As shown below, copyright information, social sharing links, and a link back to Getty Images are included in the image served.

Embed from Getty Images

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Phillips’ Paddles ON! – Was it a success?

Last week Phillips, in partnership with Tumblr, Paddle8, and curator Lindsay Howard launched what they described as

“a groundbreaking auction and exhibition that brings together artists who are using digital technologies to establish the next generation of contemporary art […] the first digital art auction at Phillips, in recognition of the increasing viability of this work in the contemporary marketplace.”

So was it a success?

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The Birth of ‘Art Tech’

Alexander Zacke, CEO of Auctionata, coins the term ‘Art Tech’ to describe the current growth in art market technology companies that “leverage technology to drive the purchase of art objects.”

He then goes to list art tech companies that have attracted significant venture capital funding:

  • Artsy – Investors include Jack Dorsey and Peter Thiel.
  • Artspace – $8.5m. Investors include Canaan Partners.
  • Paddle8 – $4m. Investors include David Frankel.
  • Artfinder – Investors include Reid Hoffman, and Wellington, Northzone, and Greylock.
  • Auctionata – $20.2m venture funding.

With significant disruption in the market, it’s wide open for new technology companies:

As more and more resources are dedicated to this industry and companies continue to improve their technology and business models in this space, anyone who wants to compete should get in sooner rather than later. The market is ripe for further investment, disruption and growth, and the time is now.

Read the full article here: The Birth of Art Tech – Alexander Zacke – Voices – AllThingsD.