Three tech startups revolutionising the $65 billion global art market by putting artists first

by Anya Breen

Over the past 6 months you’d be forgiven for a very pessimistic outlook on the visual art market. Innovation in AI at the expense of original creators has left artists at the cutting edge of their craft outpaced by the very tools they’ve used to make their living. Opinion columns have been broadcasting that tech is “poised to eliminate humans from the field of illustration”, and Q&A forums have been filled with artistic communities rallying against tech companies profiting off of their plagiarised work. 

“Continued projection of AI usage will ultimately see the loss of the human element in not only [artistic] industries but also hobbies, and thus the potential end of creativity as we know it,” said Louis Wright, Gaming Editor at Redbrick.

Whether or not the situation is that dire, these conversations have placed technological innovation in direct conflict with ‘the artist’ in public discussion, ignoring the fact that it is technological advancement that has played a significant role in the proliferation and democratisation of artistic practices over the past ten to fifteen years. 

As an amateur visual artist, platforms such as Domestika and Skillshare have given me access to knowledge I would have formerly had to buy from an elite art institute, and Etsy and Instagram have given me access to an audience that would have depended previously on social and cultural capital. I am able to develop, record and broadcast my work in a way that is built almost entirely on tech that has been developed in the past decade. 

It is vital to recognise that a large portion of the $68 billion art market is made up of consumer capital spent by artists themselves, whether they be professionals, amateurs or hobbyists. Art tech raised $480m in 2022 across Europe, and there are some really exciting, positive innovations happening for artists in 2023.

Here are 3 companies that are making a splash, whilst also supporting  the artists that form the foundations of their business models: 

1. Artportable 

Founded in 2017 and now Scandinavia’s largest online gallery, Artportable is an ecommerce platform that connects artists with potential buyers. They have worked to create a community of artists, galleries and professionals through clever use of partnerships and social media.

“There is nothing that means as much to us at Artportable as when a ”perfect match” occurs between a hard-working artist and a committed buyer.”

Interestingly artists pay a yearly subscription fee but do not have to pay commission on sales. Combined with a more specialised market focus, and better personalisation and customer care than Etsy (for example), this has given Artportable a vital niche in the industry. Unlike other platforms they do not restrict based on the existing profile of the artist, for example you do not have to be internationally recognised to advertise on their platform. 

The business has been steadily climbing year on year with 5.5m SEK funding from Brightly Ventures and a number of angel investors including early backers of Storytel. 

"If you look at 2023, how it looks, our goal is to double turnover and see profit on the bottom line this year,” said Johan Höök, co-founder, in conversation with “We have a plan to go for 24 million [SEK turnover] and a strategy to get there." 

Artportable Founders: Johan Höök and Erik Nordlander

2. Convelio

What use are high-profile platforms and brand awareness if the art arrives late, damaged or costs more to ship than to buy? Convelio is an art logistic platform solving one of the biggest challenges faced by anyone purchasing physical art: shipping. 

Founded in France in 2017, their ex-ecommerce founders, Edouard Gouin and Clément Ouizille, were shocked at the lack of affordable and efficient shipping options for the art world. They have built a now 170 plus person team, and a climate-orientated brand recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign. 

The team raised $35m last year at Series B, led by Mundi Ventures and Forestay, on top of a $9m series A in 2020. This funding has been used to expand headcount worldwide, with a particular focus on the US. 
The company covers everything from customs, to insurance to tracking, and includes the first instant quote tool for galleries, collectors and auction houses. 

Speaking in 2022, co-founder Clement Ouzille emphasised that: “backing from two more leading technology investors reflects the size of the opportunity in our reach, as the world art market continues to grow and adapts to the new digital norms.”

The Convelio team

3. Artsted

While many platforms focus on investing and buying art from artists with an existing high-profile, Artsted enables collectors to discover blue chip artists who are just starting their careers. The platform provides extensive analytics on both artworks and artists’ career trajectories to promote future value and enable smart investing. 

Through tracking an artist’s performance on the platform, collectors can also track the growth in value of the pieces they own. Recently branching out into NFTs, the London-founded company has made a big impression since its founding in 2019 and has seen success in its curated collections and the community hubs on the platform.

The founders outline on the website that they “recognised an important shift in the attitude towards information transparency as a top priority for Millennial and Generation Z collectors over the recent years. The solution the platform offers is to use Big Data for valuations, estimations and price predictions”.

The platform has raised $222k in seed-funding and founder-CEO Maryna Rybackova is working hard to build the company’s profile through talks, events and innovative social media use:

Our mission at Artsted is providing creators with intuitive tools to solve actual problems, get visibility and bring in sales, while bringing in the unprecedented level of value transparency in the primary market.”

The Artsted team at Websummit

Much as the rise of digital photography was held up at the time as the end of photographic arts, it’s unlikely that technological innovation will really spell the end of visual artistic practice, but it will transform it. What is clear is that artists need to keep up, and it is the ideas and businesses that back them in doing so that face the greatest opportunity over the coming years. Artportable, Convelio and Artsted are definitely three companies to shout about. 

Do you know of any start-ups / scale-ups that should also be featured here? Let us know!

At Atara Partners we are in the business of helping start-ups grow through our unique approach to executive search. If you’d like to learn more about Atara Partners and our work in executive search contact us here. Or check out our blog on some other Energy Disruptors.