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It is no secret that technology is entwined with the future of nearly every field we know. The world of art is no different. At that intersection of art and tech, is where Artsy was born. The website was founded 7 years ago with an aim “to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an internet connection.” It now features over 800,000 works of art by over 70,000 artists.

This summer, the President of Artsy, Sebastian Cwilich, sat down with Christine Kuan, CEO of Sotheby’s Institute and former Chief Curator and Director of Strategic Partnerships at Artsy, to talk about that overlap between art and tech and how Artsy became an industry leader. Here are some highlights from the talk:

This will always be a relationship-based market

The art world has historically been built on a vast network of relationships. Despite a multitude of innovations that are pushing the arts far past their previous boundaries, relationships and partnerships will always be at the foundation of any advancement in the market.

Cwilich explained that Artsy was able to get off the ground thanks to a partnership with Larry Gagosian, whose galleries are known worldwide. This relationship caught the attention of galleries and museums internationally and ultimately led to Artsy forming partnerships with many of these entities. As the website published more content from well-known museums and art fairs, more people and businesses within this world became interested in working with Artsy.

Capitalizing on niches requires integration of many different backgrounds

The strength of a company hinges on the knowledge, drive, and background of its employees. Artsy recruits people who have their passions aligned with the mission of the business, not necessarily just those who are art experts.

Cwilich explained that his background actually began in mathematics and software engineering. After working with Christie’s Auction House on a database, he moved into the art start-up world, which is where Artsy was born. Having a diverse staff promotes increased idea generation and allows more strategies to be brought to the table.


The success of Artsy is indicative of the trend toward increased accessibility.


Accessibility is growing

Artsy’s was founded on the core mission of increasing all people’s accessibility to the art world. This was not always an easy endeavor and still continues to raise challenges today. But, the success of Artsy is indicative of the trend toward increased accessibility.

Today, a multitude of organizations work to provide Artsy with high quality digital versions of artwork where they previously worked to keep artwork off of the internet. Museums, galleries, and art fairs are now more interested in providing companies like Artsy images and information that represents the true properties of the work. This ensures the correct information is being disseminated to the public.

The art world is still quite traditional

Cwilich emphasized the importance of understanding one’s audience, especially when innovating in a market. There have been great strides made toward incorporating technology and enabling accessibility to works of art. That being said, this world is still very traditional. Drastic changes to established practices often prove difficult in this marketplace. Plus, the use of technology inevitably raises concerns of copyright infringement. Though Artsy has a complex system of counteracting this, patience and persistence will continue to be strategically utilized to give people time to better understand the technological world and its relationship with the art market.

Ask “when” not “if”

Idea generation is not only key to the inception of all start-ups, but also the most crucial aspect of maintaining their success. According to Cwilich, at one point Artsy seemed like a risky idea. But incorporating technology into the art world was not a question of “if.” It was a question of when would be the best time to implement it.

Before dismissing ideas that may seem risky or impossible, ask if they are feasible within the next few years time. If so, they may just be the next greatest innovation.

Written by Emily Mills


Want to hear the full talk between Artsy and Sotheby's Institute of Art? Watch it here.