It’s finally here. After two years in beta, Art.sy has launched to the public. Backed by millions of dollars in venture capital from the likes of megadealer Larry Gagosian, art doyenne Dasha Zhukova, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, the website is perhaps the most highly anticipated online art initiative to debut in the last five years. Now that it’s public, Art.sy is quickly expanding beyond image sharing: ARTINFO can report that the site will serve as the exclusive online platform for Design Miami/ in December and the Armory Show in March.
Art.sy already has 60,000 registered users, but its official launch brings some surprises. In addition to the fair partnerships, it will permanently feature works of art from private collections and 50 museums, including the Dallas Art Museum, SFMOMA, and the Fondation Beyeler. (Previously, Art.sy had suggested it would only display artwork from galleries.)
Of the fair partnerships, Robert Lenne, Art.sy’s head of design, said in a statement: “We’re creating a new component of Art.sy to complement the offline experience that will extend the excitement and energy of the fair beyond its traditional duration and across a global audience.” By partnering with Design Miami/ and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Art.sy is venturing into territory previously dominated by high-end online design marketplace 1stDibs.
Perhaps more significantly, however, Art.sy’s new fair partnerships encroach on turf previously occupied by existing sites like Paddle8, Gallerist, and Artspace. Last year, the Armory Show allowed collectors to browse gallery inventory on Paddle8 in advance of and immediately after the fair. (As of opening day, Paddle8 said it had orchestrated approximately 50 early sales.)
While it remains to be seen exactly how the Armory Show’s partnership with Art.sy will differ from its partnership with Paddle8, the site’s COO Sebastian Cwilich notes that the process will not be radically different for users already accustomed to using the site. Collectors will have the option of speaking with an Art.sy specialist, connecting directly with the gallery, or submitting offers on works. A new feature will also enable them to buy outright, if dealers choose to activate e-commerce for a particular work of art. As the New York Times notes in its article on Art.sy’s launch, the site plans to bring in revenue principally by charging sales commissions. (Paddle8 and Artspace also operate on a commission basis, though the rates of all three differ.)
Prior to its launch, Art.sy boasted 20,000 high-resolution works of art, 100,000 invitation requests, 2.6 million page views, and 50 million artwork impressions in over 170 countries. The site’s mantra is “to make all the world’s art freely accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.”
As the Times notes, Google Art Project offers nearly twice as many images as Art.sy, though it doesn’t have its trademark “art genome,” which introduces viewers to art they might like based on art they have already looked at. Still, some aren’t sold on the idea: “This place is littered with really terrible art that nobody should be directed to,” Yale School of Art dean Robert Storr told the newspaper.
Art.sy is now free and open to the public, so you are welcome to see for yourself if you share Storr’s opinion. And come December, collectors will be able to take Art.sy’s simulated online art fair experience for a spin.
— Julia Halperin