Friday, November 12, 2010

The Challenges of Buying Art in One's Pajamas, Part II

Following up on our earlier discussion here, I'd say the online art market is about to get very interesting indeed. Today Artinfo.com reports that
Larry Gagosian has... team[ed up] with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Russian heiress Dasha Zhukova, Wendi Murdoch (wife of Rupert), and others to roll out a personalized online fine-art emporium. Called Art.sy, the brand new company was strung together by Carter Cleveland, a 24-year-old entrepreneur, and will introduce aspects of technology pioneered by custom music-curating site Pandora to art sales, according to a report in Business Insider, which broke the story.
I know of at least three similar efforts also currently in development, and while their individual odds of emerging as a real player vary, my first thought when reading who was now getting behind Art.sy was to think "Game over. This is the crew."

Then I recalled my dot.com history lessons and remembered that first out the gate hardly guarantees you'll be the winner in this game. A splashy start is good, but more than anything the information architecture innovations, entrepreneurial instincts, and just plain being in the right place at the right time with the right user experience is what it takes to emerge as the online king. If your interface sucks or your data isn't flexible enough, no one will care whose name is on the masthead a year or so into pounding their keyboards in frustration. Being top dog in a real world field doesn't necessarily translate into domination in the online world either. Anyone remember flooz.com or mvp.com? ... My point exactly.

Still, kudos to Art.sy for nabbing Gagosian and Zhukova before their competitors got much traction. I know there has been fierce competition to attract that kind of star power to the various fledgling efforts in the second generation of online art selling sites. If you're one of those other efforts, though, I wouldn't stop coding just yet...there are megabytes and megabytes yet left in this race.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous David said...

When people buy art in their pajamas, they'll have even more reason to go out to the galleries. Pajama party openings are going to be the next big thing. You heard it first right here...

11/12/2010 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another MyArtSpace is exactly what we don't need! I don't care what names are behind the methods are always the same and it always ends up with artists paying a huge fee for a site tha does not even provide a unique url. Artists should stick to having a personal website and galleries need to get off their duffs and explore e-Commerce on their own sites instead of waiting for some site like art.sy to take a chunk of their profit!

11/12/2010 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anonymous,

you should try reading about something before you get all hot and bothered about how it too is exploiting artists. Here is link to the Art.sy site ...it is dealer driven and costs artists nothing.

11/13/2010 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

way cool

" We are really excited to help new and existing collectors discover original art they'll love."
...
harnessing Pandora's template — which creates ongoing playlists based on users' personal tastes, "


this "coddling" of search results which is a Google mainstay always frightens me. The possibility of random discovery is always reduced with the concept of blinders of past personal preference. it reminds me of a story I read as a child, a reknowned figure has retired to a distant planet , being a recluse, his robo-butler knows from history/programming to turn away requests for interviews ... and in time turns away a diplomatic mission requesting the renowned figure to overcome a political impasse that may lead to war ... he was willing to overcome his phobia's and go, but in the night the robo-butler had sent the mission away empty handed ...

a similar blinders of discovery happens when artists are unwilling to explore new territory based on practicability ... I hope art.sy includes multiple search methodologies so more then just the top ten results appear. randomness is not always bad and one thing hyperlinks and digressions may teach us is that the path to discovery isn't a straight line but one of meandering glances.


still cool even if cookies and crumbs are too persistent

11/13/2010 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous michelle muldrow said...

I think the naysayers are being naive and not recognizing that the world has permanently changed. In the art world, this resistance has been evident,it has taken awhile for art to hop into the internet success.I still think how long it took many galleries and art organizations to switch to digital images instead of slides.Then, how long it has taken galleries to make a sufficient website,then improve and upgrade after their first rudimentary one.Art has been running slower than the rest of the world in terms of internet and I think it is a mistake to imagine that art commerce doesn't work on the web,it will work once there is the right format and organization of the company.Remember there was Friendster before Facebook...

11/13/2010 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Jedd Haas said...

This looks like an interesting idea. It appears to be modeled on the music service Pandora, to pick one point of reference. It may well be successful.

I think it's interesting that you picked the participation of Gagosian and Zhukova as the biggest potential "success factors" for this site.

That points out that connections, "who you know" and personal networking are the real centers of power in the business. One wonders: can Art.sy download Gagosian's brain into an artificially intelligent site? Perhaps, in years to come.

As for the remarks by "Anonymous" about artist self-empowerment, while the invective towards Art.sy was misplaced, there's a kernel of important truth in the message. As an artist, I want a site where I can browse through hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of art collectors. I'd like to browse through them and find the ones most likely to be interested in my work and worthy of buying it.

In the meantime, until such fantasy sites arrive, I'll continue building up my own site and pushing my own strategies forward.

11/14/2010 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

I’ve worked on recommendation technology for the past five years and I can tell you that Pandora-style recommendations is a natural for art – if it’s done right. You need good data and good algorithms (and not just one, but a whole bunch of them).

A version of the Art.sy site already exists, to they’ve got their proof of concept. With good hires and good direction they should do fine.

And they sure as hell are well-placed. It’s hard to imagine a better set of investors than they’ve got for a technology-rich play in the artworld.

The virtualization (“internetization”) of the artworld is going to be a two-edged sword for everybody involved. It will create new opportunities but also require new competitive skills.

As to discovery of new artists, I am absolutely sure that it will help more than it hurts. The whole idea of recommendation technology is to get past the head of the curve and explore what’s in the long tail. It does this by determining the similarities of items to other items independent of their overall popularity.

It works like this. Say you want to find items that you like, and that there are way too many items for you to even look at, much less rate them. But there are many other people all looking at different items and individually rating them. Now it becomes possible to bring all the individual ratings together and find correlations between the items. This includes correlations between popular (head) items, correlations between unpopular (long tail) items, and correlation between popular and unpopular items. The correlations are basically a refinement of “people who liked A also liked B” and its variants such as you see on Amazon.

Once these correlations are available you can use them to find items that you like without having to search for them directly or somehow stumble upon them. You just take items that you’ve already found that you like and then get lists of other things that they are similar to, and look at them. You may not like all of them, but the probability that you will like a given one is much greater than the probability that you will like an item picked at random from the whole set. Plus the lists you look at will include not only popular items but also unpopular ones, maybe ones far down the long tail that you would never find otherwise.

This is an example of collective intelligence – everybody is helping everybody else find what they like.

But they’re also helping items to be found, and these items may be people. In terms of Art.sy, collectors and other researchers are helping artists to be found – that is to be found by other than just direct searching or random browsing. Artists have to be found (and rated in some way) by somebody to get into the correlation system and get onto lists of similar items, but once that happens they‘re off and running – they will be recommended to people who may have never heard of them but like other artists that are similar to them.

But the system doesn’t help just one artist to be found, it helps them all, and this includes your competitors. The more people who find you, the more other artists you will be found similar to, and the more additional chances you have of being found through recommendations to those who like the other artists. The other artists in question need not be your competitors but they certainly may be. And the correlations work both ways. Your similar competitors have a good chance of being recommended to the very people who like you.

In this connection it will be interesting to see whether Art.sy will give artists and their dealers any opportunities to “boost” their chances of being recommended in a given context. Saying that the site is free for artists is not the same as saying that there are no added services that they can pay for. Whether by spending money or some other strategy, people will be looking for ways to get an edge, and even to "game" the system. We may well see the recommendations analog of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

11/14/2010 06:00:00 PM  

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