“Art tech” refers to solutions that assist art market stakeholders—whether they’re collectors, creators, or gallerists—in elevating their businesses. The inception of art tech predates the dot-com boom, with SaaS solutions targeting this market. Yet, nearly three decades on, the art market predominantly operates on PDFs, word processors, email lists, and spreadsheets.
According to the 2023 Art Basel and UBS market report, global art sales increased by 3% year-on-year in the previous year. The report indicated that 2022 sales approached almost $68 billion, with the US capturing 45% of the global market share. However, the Artnet Mid-Year Review from July 2023 expects a downturn in these figures for 2023, noting a significant deceleration in line with the global economy. Artnet’s findings revealed a 25% decline in secondary sales at major auction houses compared to 2022. Despite this, gallerists like David Zwirner remain hopeful.
A saying common during crypto bear markets goes, “the bear is for builders.” This sentiment resonates with the art market as well. With advancements in blockchain technology and AI, developers across various sectors are fervently creating solutions for an industry long overdue for modern tooling. By “supercharging” the art world with tools crafted by teams of tech and art experts, the market might witness enhancement.
Artificial Intelligence and User-Friendly Tooling by simplify.art
simplify.art, a platform powered by Yurica—an AI engineered to “understand and process text about art”—was introduced to me by its co-founder, Victoria Dejaco. Yurica, a meta-algorithm, drives various facets of the simplify.art platform. Its algorithms handle tasks like processing and extracting information from online documents and those uploaded by artists. It also offers LLMs for text processing, provides custom recommendations for collectors and artists, and implements an AI-based pricing model. Furthermore, the diligent AI task force at simplify.art, spearheaded by researcher Sonja Steiner, meticulously refines Yurica to ensure its algorithms exhibit reduced biases concerning gender, social, and racial representation.
Dejaco founded simplify.art drawing from her experiences as a gallerist, art historian, and a studio and collection manager. Recognizing the inadequacies of current solutions, she envisioned a new platform tailored to address the specific issues she encountered firsthand. Together with co-founder Glenn Vanbavinckhove, a former Director of Data Science at both KPMG and Deloitte, they scrutinized other art tech offerings. Their vision expanded, aiming for a tech stack that seamlessly integrates the best solutions. Dejaco stressed the importance of a software “that remains simple to handle, integrating essential features into a cohesive ecosystem.”
The duo, alongside an all-female team of technologists and marketers, is committed to refining the platform, focusing on user-centric automation. Vanbavinckhove emphasized the importance of tailored and relevant solutions, championing the use of automation, machine learning, and AI throughout simplify.art.
Blockchain-based Artwork Authentication by Verisart
In 2015, the Verisart team began experimenting with the blockchain for physical art. Their Certificates of Authenticity, built atop the Bitcoin
blockchain, were launched in 2019. The product has four different certificate statuses, incremental in levels of verification. The highest one, Certificate of Authenticity+ provides detailed item information and includes holographic certificates and QR stickers for physical items.
As the company evolved, and in response to the explosion of the NFT
market in 2021, Verisart has subsequently expanded their product offerings. Today, they provide NFT minting tools, a Shopify integration for streamlined storefront creation, and more.
A Generative Art Engine by Art Blocks
Generative art stands out as the most dominant genre in the NFT world. Art Blocks, established in 2019, has led the industry in this space since 2021. This platform and company are devoted to launching and selling algorithmic art. Two of the most lucrative generative art NFT releases, Ringers by Dmitri Cherniak (January 2021) and Fidenza by Tyler Hobbs (June 2021), were introduced via Art Blocks. As per the NFT marketplace OpenSea, Ringers and Fidenza have generated trading volumes of 31,301 ETH
and 62,872 ETH, respectively.
To diversify their offerings, Art Blocks rolled out a generative art engine in 2022. This engine empowers creators and brands to debut their own NFT generative collections using Art Blocks’ smart contracts and rendering capabilities. The Art Blocks Engine offers two products: the primary Engine, which also manages on-chain storage of assets, and Engine Flex, which grants clients the flexibility to manage asset storage through decentralized solutions, such as IPFS.
Invisible Web3 Experiences by Mojito
Mojito, a consumer engagement platform, has garnered attention in the traditional art world, partly due to the crypto expertise of its founders, Matthew Iles and Amanda Cassatt, both Consensys alumni and marketing experts. Mojito extends a suite of white-label web3 services, including crypto wallets, mints, drops, marketplaces, and token-gated reward systems.
Mojito is versatile, catering to a diverse range of brands and companies of all sizes. While they can assist prominent names seeking a strong metaverse presence, their expertise doesn’t stop there. Renowned auction houses such as Sotheby’s (that was in turn a backer in Mojito’s $20 million USD raise) and esteemed galleries like Pace—both Mojito clients—already benefit from their services. Moreover, small creative agencies looking to lead in web3 consulting can harness Mojito’s comprehensive tools to amplify their offerings. This is in line with how global brands, like Adidas, are charting their course in the metaverse, underscoring a broader industry shift.
Iles highlighted in an email conversation that “Traditional art galleries are largely offline, lacking in e-commerce proficiency and customer data.” Beyond creating new markets for digital art, Iles believes NFTs offer traditional galleries enhanced online engagement capabilities and richer customer data.
It’s worth noting that the tools and platforms mentioned above aren’t solely designed for big institutions or high-profile galleries; they cater to a broad spectrum of users. To suggest that the art market’s primary participants are only major galleries and auction houses is an oversimplification. Numerous talented artists opt for independence, while others struggle to secure representation. Moreover, many smaller galleries can’t afford the cost of showcasing at art fairs or prominent online platforms.
Affordable service rates, a wide range of technologies and customizable packages help small businesses grow sustainably. The tools highlighted above offer diverse avenues for all art world participants to carve out their online identities—whether they’re selling NFTs, sculptures, paintings, or even poems.
Platforms crafted by multidisciplinary teams, bridging the divide between technologists and art enthusiasts, will be pivotal for the art world’s future. They hold the key to broader inclusivity, fostering a more vibrant and healthy market.