Tell us more about the “pinterest for artists” you’ve imagined and now run
ArtStack is the best way to discover and share art. We are the largest UGC database of art in the world, with over 500,000 works on the site.
ArtStack enables anyone to engage with art, see works they don’t already know and learn about art. We serve hundreds of thousands of art lovers, art professionals (gallerists, curators, etc) and artists globally.
What’s at the heart of ArtStack?
ArtStack is the first social platform for art in the world – creating a democratic way for people to engage with art and curate their own space online. Artists, auction houses and galleries use ArtStack to their work directly to the most relevant audience: people who have already expressed an interest in what they’re doing.
We are a social platform and follow best practices from across other social sites in other domains – these can come from companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Spotify but always in an art-specific manner.
ArtStack is all about art promotion and enjoyment – it’s built around enabling people to promote art they love (or their own work). We make it possible for people to enjoy art online, in an art-specific environment, with all the information they could possibly need to get to know the artists’ work. This means people can learn about and discover work online, and also that they’re much more likely to then go an enjoy art in person. Studies show that people who see art online are then much more likely to engage with it in person; we want to encourage this so we’ve created a specific section of the website so you can see what exhibitions are on in hundreds of cities globally, and get a real idea of whether you’d like to see them based on the artists’ work.
What drove you to create ArtStack the way it is?
We understand the art world extremely well, which helps a lot with creating an art-specific product that reflects how people engage with art offline. I did an MA in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art before working at the Serpentine Gallery and my co-founder, James Lindon, did an MA in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art before working at Victoria Miro Gallery, Pace and establishing his own gallery. From a user experience standpoint, we focus a lot on bringing the most relevant functionality to create an interesting platform that serves our constituents, has a natural virality and strong retention. This has a lot to do with keeping ArtStack clean, simple and easy to use, with great design.
We work with people who understand art and are passionate about the internet – art online is an exciting area but it’s still in its infancy, so passion is as important as technical proficiency.
You’ve picked up on the power of social network, what other trend you think may have such an impact too?
Social revolutionised the way we use internet and how people learn about new things. We’re bringing that to art – but there are lots of other interesting trends online. People want personalised curation and they want to share their taste more than ever before. Mobile is a key way for people to engage and so we’ve invested a lot in our apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Do as much as you can to test your ideas with simple hacked together solutions. Always stay focused on your end goals and dream big but make the compromises necessary to get things going quickly. Keep it simple – people would rather go to a restaurant that does one dish very well than somewhere that does a million things to a poor standard. Prioritise one key element of your product and iterate on that to make it exceptional.
Make sure you’re truly passionate about your project: it will become your life, filling every waking hour so be sure it’s something you want to think about. Start-ups aren’t for everyone, and that’s ok. They’re not something you can take a break from: if you’re not doing it, it’s probably not getting done. It’s a different level of responsibility than with a typical day job: the peaks are higher and the troughs are lower.
Have you got an idea for improving how we fund, make, share and enjoy art and culture?
Art should be accessible to anyone – helping make people feel comfortable around art, to see more art and to enjoy it in real life are key elements of what we do with ArtStack. I want people to be able to easily have an art experience offline or online everyday. The UK government is trying to support museums develop more digital engagement, which is terrific but it’s important to remember that 80% of apps are not used more than once after they’ve been downloaded. State support for individual arts organisations is important but we need to think more about how that works in the digital context.
We’re seeing a new aesthetic develop as a result of the internet and people are using the internet as a medium which is tremendously exciting, but there will always be painting and sculpture. What’s great is that digital engagement can help more people experience and learn about more art today than ever before.
Inspired? We look forward to seeing you at the Startup Weekend Art London in October!