ARTtwo50’s iPad app is designed to help people interested in original art find the perfect piece. The app takes a snapshot of the wall that you want to mount artwork and lets you swipe through different pieces based on size. When you find the perfect piece, you can purchase it through the app for $250.
Breaking down the $250 price: 80% goes to the artist and 20% goes to ARTtwo50. That 20% covers shipping and operation costs for the company. The idea of purchasing products through an app isn’t anything new, you can do it through a lot of different apps. IKEA has its own app where you can place virtual furniture in your space, too.
The difference with ARTtwo50 is that it’s all about original art. No digital reproductions, no mass produced pieces, and it’s about connecting artists to buyers. I had a chance to talk with Ethan Appleby, Founder and CEO about the company, the development of the app, and upcoming improvements that the team has planned.
ARTtwo50 started when Appleby was brainstorming ideas about new markets. He came up with the idea for an art selling service, but didn’t actively pursue it until talking with friends. Their response was always positive and friends wanted to know more about what the service could be.
Appleby looked for alternatives that might already exist, but found that they pushed a non-intuitive experience. Essentially these other services were webstores that supplied too many options without explanation. The core of ARTtwo50 would be to help people discover art without being inundated.
Buying art for the first time can be daunting. Someone who is only familiar with digital prints will often have no idea where to start. There are options for the canvas, then the type of medium – like oils, pastels, watercolors, processes, and finishes. ARTtwo50 changes that by focusing on the visual – the art itself. ARTtwo50 provides more detailed information about the medium and the artist, so as you learn more about different mediums, you could start to develop a preference.
The $250 base price for original art can be overwhelming to a new art buyer and I asked Appleby about that. When browsing through the app, some pieces of art were 8.5″ X 11″ pencil sketches. My concern was that some art looked liked final projects for college classes.
In response, Appleby told me a story about a visit to a art gallery where he saw four Polaroid pictures mounted and connected with pencil lines. That piece of art was selling for $800. He emphasized that ARTtwo50 is designed to let the buyer make that decision to purchase that art.
There’s also a lot of learning through the app’s mechanical learning backend. When using the app, you can favorite pieces which adds to your personal algorithm of choices. But the app also monitors swipes. So if you quickly swipe past art, the app will learn that it’s not your to your liking and will stop feeding it into your recommendations.
The app is currently at version 3.3.0 and ARTtwo50 updates on a bi-weekly schedule. This means that the app is constantly evolving. A perfect example is that the version shown in the video on the website doesn’t match the current version. Appleby said that while there’s always improvements, version 3.0 is the core experience that the team wanted for the iPad app.
I asked about other platforms and Appleby said that a iPhone version is coming soon and ARTtwo50 is looking at other platforms, but right now they’re focused on the US market and the iOS platform is the perfect one. Other updates will include revamping the camera function to fix some confusion in the user interface.
More community options on the way
As we talked, I asked Appleby about other planned updates. When I mentioned social updates, he said it’s something that ARTtwo50 is actively working to include. One of the biggest additions to the app will be various community options. I also asked about filtering by medium and Appleby replied that it was something that the team wanted to explore, but it could be confusing for someone who wasn’t familiar with the different mediums that artist can use. He said that it ‘s easier for someone to choose art based on how it looks rather than the medium that was used.
Another filtering option I asked about was location. Currently ARTtwo50 lists artists in one long alphabetical list. The app’s roster includes around 1,000 artists and ARTtwo50 wants to have 40,000 artists using ARTtwo50 by the end of the year. That’s why the algorithm and recommendations are so important. ARTtwo50 also plans on building better social interactions by allowing friends to suggest art, which is a great idea for people who know your taste.
Appleby said that about 15% of artists were from San Francisco, but its most popular artist was from Wyoming. He also commented that there were artists signing up in places around the US that he didn’t expect. He hopes to include more information on artists like studio locations so buyers can visit the artist if possible.
He said there have been cases where prospective buyers visited the artist’s studio and wanted to purchase art directly. The artist referred the buyer to purchase the art through the ARTtwo50 app instead.
Even though they were selling the art for $250 and would receive the full amount in person, ARTtwo50’s incentive for artists is that when they sell five pieces of art, they unlock more selling slots in their profile. More art slots means more possible sales with a broader audience.
Removing the barrier of original art
One of the last questions I had was the idea about expanding the kinds of art that ARTtwo50 would support to sell. As long as it was “original,” it could theoretically follow the main guideline of the company. Appleby said that they could support other types of art like sculpture, but one of the concerns was shipping that type of art.
Generally, canvas art has a set of dimensions that it follows, but things like sculpture present new problems. It wasn’t out of the question, but right now ARTtwo50’s focus in on canvas artwork.
I also asked about the popularity of digital arts and prints which can run in limited editions. Appleby said that ARTtwo50 could also create a secondary market or app for digital artists since they do support limited editions, but that right now they are focused on original art.
ARTtwo50 has a lot of room to grow and the app is already supplying a great resource for amateur art enthusiasts: a place to purchase original art. The update schedule means that new features are added and polished regularly and when community features are implemented in the app, it will give buyers a greater resource on finding and purchasing art. Appleby said that ARTtwo50 wants to support local art communities and linking artists with buyers is an important part of the app that is being improved.
Bridging online shopping with physical products isn’t anything new, but the market that ARTtwo50 is chasing is huge. Applying standard pricing really eliminates the hard decision of purchasing art and helps you focus on the piece itself. It’s difficult to find art and artists that you may find interesting online, but ARTtwo50 is supplying the tools you need to connect directly and make that new purchase to decorate your wall.