• September 30, 2019

    Does the art world need Transparency?

    Who can you trust in the art market?
    Does the art world need Transparency?

    An Art Innovators Alliance panel discussion, London, 24 September 2019, at h Club.

    Panelists (l to r in photo):
    Host: Bernadine Brocker Wieder, Vastari Co-founder
    Philip Hoffman
    , Founder & CEO of The Fine Art Group
    Ivan Macquisten, Writer, Commentator, Analyst, Collector
    Christine Bourron, Founder & CEO Pi‐eX

    Report by Articheck's Claire Trevien

    Trust and transparency go hand in hand, and it was the most hotly debated topic at London’s Art Innovators Alliance debate, moderated by Bernadine Brocker Wieder, Vastari’s Co-founder. Old school approaches clashed with modern sensibilities – a microcosm of what plays out on a larger scale in the art world. With only so much data available and advisors at every corner, where can buyers and sellers find information that they can trust, and how can the art market, in the widest sense of the term, make itself seem less opaque?

    The panel discussed the amount of fraud taking place year on year in the art market. Art analyst Ivan Macquisten estimated that if there was greater transparency, an average of 10 billion of trades wouldn’t go through every year. While this figure might not be 100% accurate, he uses it to explain the magnitude of the problem: from works found illegally, to unfair prices, and fraudulent practices. “To me, the biggest cost of the non-transparency of the art market is all the people who could have potentially invested in the art market, and who do not because they’re scared of it all”, added Christine Bourron, CEO and Founder of Pi-eX.

    However, getting reliable data is not as straightforward as it sounds. Bourron believes that the most essential requirement to an investment is data, “and then you need to evaluate your investment”. On the other side of the argument, Philip Hoffman, Founder and CEO of The Fine Art Group, claimed that “the data makes no difference to the art market. I don’t look at any charts, they can all be manipulated”. While his statement was deliberately flippant, and it’s likely he does still employ and rely on charts and data, the point that data is never neutral is an important one to remember. To Bourron, interpretation of data is, of course, essential, but so is honesty about the data: “you cannot hide a part of the data”.

    There is also, of course, the notion of “the art market” to contend with, as Macquisten is keen to point out: “there is no such thing as the art market, instead there are hundreds of micro markets.” In this, he echoes Clare MacAndrews’ notion that the art market is a vast array of “independently moving submarkets that are defined by artists, genres, price points, and geographical locations”.

    Should we trust “honest” data, or the expertise of the likes of Hoffman? Data only takes you so far before experts and their assumptions have to take over – a point made by Bourron across the evening. Reputable sources, such as Clare MacAndrews’ Art Basel report, are also by necessity built on assumptions – since many of the sources aren’t accessible (for example those related to private sales). To some extent, Macquisten argued, the exact figures aren’t necessarily all-important – but getting enough to make informed decisions is.

    It seems unlikely that we will see the “art world” adopt the approach of tech companies such as Buffer who have opted for 100% transparency on all levels from salaries and fundraising to their coding. As the panel made clear, in the art world, those who demand transparency are rarely transparent themselves. Will transparency also cause harm to some companies’ businesses due to less scrupulous ones?

     While not all of the panellists were on board for full transparency, the consensus seemed to be that they all thought more work was needed to improve trust with future art investors if businesses want to keep navigating smoothly in the future.


  • April 9, 2019

    The Road Yet Travelled

    What art businesses can learn from other industries about technology adoption and transformation
    Left to right: Alisa Mala, Alex Mitow, Superfine!; Annika Erikson, Articheck; Daniel Doubrovkine, Artsy. Works by artist Joe Amrhein. Courtesy Postmasters Gallery. Photo Erik Erikson

    An Art Innovators Alliance launch & panel discussion, New York, 19 March 2019, at Postmasters Gallery.

    Tony Aiazzi, CEO & Co-founder, Chouxbox
    Daniel Doubrovkine, CTO, Artsy
    Annika Erikson, Founder & CEO, ArtiCheck
    Alex Mitow, Director of Superfine! Art Fair, former restaurateur
    Nathan Richardson, Co-founder Trade-it, former CEO Gilt City
    Moderator: Elisa Mala

    On a still winter's night at Postmasters Gallery in Tribeca NYC, a new industry voice, Art Innovators Alliance, was launched with a panel discussion around tech and innovation for the arts.

    An audience of 100 people heard a panel discussion titled The Road Yet Travelled: What art businesses can learn from other industries.

    Speakers included Artsy CTO Daniel Doubrovkine, Superfine! Art Fair co-founder & Director Alex Mitow and Annika Erikson, founder & CEO of Articheck as well as panelists from the fashion & food industries.

    The panel explored ways technology had changed those industries, for better or worse, and then drew parallels with the art industry before exploring the challenges and opportunities ahead.

    Topics covered included

    • the impact of mobile on the fashion industry: 'game-changer'
    • the unexpected importance of the 'tactile' nature of images being presented (ie people want to know exactly what they are going to get)
    • the importance of empowering non business types (eg chefs)
    • The Seamless/Uber eats experience in the food world - how B2C (client driven demand) drove the change in B2B sales (restaurants had to be part of it)
    • It's never been easier to harness tech to new business models (API's can solve anything!)
    • The challenges of getting people to change when they've been doing something the same way for years (change habits, not just try something once)
    • 'Data is the key' - create personalised, unique experiences utilising data (in everything from email to product)
    • Lessons learned included 'concentrating on what people want rather than what we thought they needed; be rational and data driven; don't let your ego get in the way
    • Be where the people are: thoughts on Instagram, Google etc
    • The merits of using existing tech rather than building custom solutions that don't integrate or use industry standards
    • Competitors or collaborators? What's best for the art industry?
    • Transparency (or the lack thereof) in the art world and who does that actually benefit?
    • Some best practice examples of art businesses using tech
    • What are the challenges of bringing art into the tech world?
    • Is tech v art so different? Although the art world is resistant to tech, both are creative endeavours

    Listen to the full podcast here.

    Introductions (6 mins)
    Session One: Innovation in Food & Fashion 
    (29 mins)
    Session Two: Innovation in the Arts (36 mins)

    Photo left to right: Alisa Mala; Alex Mitow, Superfine!; Annika Erikson, Articheck; Daniel Doubrovkine, Artsy. Works by artist Joe Amrhein. Courtesy Postmasters Gallery. Photo Erik Erikson

  • April 4, 2019

    The Art Innovators Alliance: A conversation

    A Flash Art, Parallels interview by Diana Wierbicki with Edie Meyer

    The Art Innovators Alliance is an alliance of forward-thinking art businesses committed to advancing the art industry through innovation & technology. Created by eight founding members: ARTA, Articheck, Artlogic, Art Frankly, Art Money, Tagsmart, Vastari and Verisart.

    Diana Wierbicki, global head of Withers’ Art team, sat down with Edie Meyer of Vastari, one of the founding members, to speak about the background of the Alliance, her insight on the art and technology industries and looking ahead.

  • Technology’s Impact on the Art Industry Today & Predictions for the Future

    A packed room at the venerable National Arts Club in New York City was the venue for a January 23 panel discussion entitled “Technology’s Impact on the Art Industry Today and Predictions for the Future”. Moderated by Natalia Kolodzei of the Kolodzei Foundation, the panel included Bernadine Brocker of Vastari, Adam Fields of ARTA and Andrew Goldstein, the Editor-in-Chief at Artnet News.

    The evening included a lively discussion around the adoption of current technology in the art world and what these leaders predict for the future. In the audience was a mix of attendees, including representatives from companies involved in art and technology ranging from Artsy to Artlogic to Collector Systems. Having so many experts in the audience as well as on stage meant that there were interesting debates and discussions in the initial conversation and the subsequent Q&A.

    The discussion started with the background to how each of the three companies have been involved in digitising the art world, in the order of each company’s founding date. Artnet is greatly known for its pricing database, but also increasingly through the popularity of its email-based editorial content known as artnet news. Andrew’s experience also spans to another initiative for digitising the art world, called Artspace, a company selling art online which was sold to Phaidon in 2014.

    Bernadine Brocker Wieder described how Vastari was founded, from a desire to make more connections between collectors of art and museums for exhibitions. Adam Fields, who also worked at Artspace, described how his work selling art online exposed the inefficiencies in sending art using global logistics suppliers. He set up ARTA in 2014 to make it easier for art marketplaces, auction houses and galleries to get a variety of quotes for shipping their art around the world.

    As the discussion coincided with the beginnings of the Art Innovators Alliance, there were also questions about best practices, security online and issues with art market players embracing technology.

    Natalia led the conversations in a variety of directions, weaving from questions more related to the interests for artists, to those related to galleries and museums. Looking at how the art world has evolved from the 90’s to today, the conversation then evolved to what people can expect in the future.

    One of the points that resonated most about this panel discussion was the importance of engagement from collectors, galleries and artists. Unless they are aware of the importance of technology and the security that these applications are providing, there is limited impact for innovation and technology.

    Interestingly, the companies expressed less concern about upcoming competition and were more worried about finding sustainable financial models that can help continue the growth. There is a certain expectation from the industry to constantly receive services for free, which can be difficult for the companies that are providing the services. “Nothing in life is free” said Bernadine, “so if you are getting services for free, then the company offering you the services may be selling your data.”

    Raising awareness of these issues for the art world, and how innovation can be transformative in a positive way, is why the Art Innovators Alliance was founded. The Innovators will officially launch on 19 March 2019 with an industry panel discussion at Postmasters Gallery in NYC. Book here.

  • November 26, 2018

    11 Art World Entrepreneurs you should know: Adam Fields, Arta

    Sotheby's Institute 2018 list
    11 Art World Entrepreneurs you should know: Adam Fields, Arta
  • November 26, 2018

    Women you should know: Bernadine Brocker

    Art Tactic interviews Bernadine Brocker, Co-founder & CEO, Vastari
    Women you should know: Bernadine Brocker
  • October 31, 2018

    The next generation of [art] collectors…

    Paul Becker, Founder & CEO, Art Money
    The next generation of [art] collectors…