There has to be a way of acquiring high quality original art created by artists from around the world. And that is exactly why Artbeep – a platform that allows collectors and art enthusiasts to learn more about and buy art – was created. In an interview with PanARMENIAN.Net, co-founder Vago Barseghyan tells about the mission of the platform, the problems that the industry is facing and much more.
Tell us about Artbeep.
Artbeep is an online art platform bringing the best contemporary artists from emerging markets to art lovers worldwide. We also regularly organise events in various cities around the world where collectors can meet the Artbeep artists directly.
Our business model is based on recruiting local individuals who help us in discovering the artists and then assist artists with marketing and logistics. We merge the experience of physical events with e-commerce to provide an appealing customer experience.
Artbeep doesn’t have expensive physical galleries to keep the costs low and offer the artworks to the buyers at very attractive prices. When you order an artwork from Artbeep, it gets sent by our local agents and arrives normally within 1-2 weeks.
What inspired you to start?
I wanted to buy some paintings for our newly-renovated family home in Yerevan, Armenia and discovered that there is no such an obvious place to buy art. Quality choice was very limited and pricey. The situation is very similar in many other countries in the region such as Georgia and Belarus. That’s when the idea to create Artbeep crossed my mind.
Why is Artbeep relevant now?
There are constant ongoing scandals in the art world. What will be considered as an insider trading or unethical behaviour in other industries is viewed as part of the culture in the art world. Also the industry is becoming global and emerging market artists will play an increasingly bigger role in the future. Artbeep is on a mission to participate in the changes to make art market more transparent and geographically diverse.
What is the big picture for Artbeep? What are the biggest obstacles Artbeep is facing?
The art world has always been an exclusive place. Middlemen and agents traditionally determine taste, set prices and hike up fees. Some even manipulate the prices to an extent that would be illegal in many other industries. At the moment, almost half of the contemporary art sales in the West are generated by just 10 contemporary artists with exceptionally strong market power. Artbeep would like to disrupt that winner-takes-all model by giving the power to artists and buyers alike, allowing them to connect directly and bond over art that speaks to them personally.
What is innovative about Artbeep? What are the problems you are addressing?
Artbeep aims to address 2 main problems:
- There is no cost efficient way of connecting the best artists from emerging markets with art lovers worldwide, and
- There is no effective way of buying art without paying high % to intermediaries.
We “curate the local curators” by operating in previously unexplored regions and selecting high quality and professional art with no limitation on the number of artists to represent, hence providing buyers with a wide choice of artworks at a wide price range.
We started approximately a year ago and can already offer art lovers a choice of more than 125 artists from 10 countries.
We are continuously growing and there is a high chance you’ll come to us when you’re looking to purchase an artwork in the future.
Why do people buy art and would they continue doing so?
People painted and enjoyed looking at paintings since prehistoric times. It’s always been as a source of beauty, aesthetic pleasure and even therapy. While we have increasingly more digital media and entertainment around us, none of it can replace the power of an exquisite original artwork that you fell in love with and can have it on your wall to bring you joy every day.
All surveys show that emotional aspect of buying art is by far the most important reason why people buy art. Once you come across an artwork that moves you in some way, it’s only natural to want to own it. At Artbeep we have seen this happening so often at our events and exhibitions – people walking in and after getting enchanted by an artwork - leaving with it.
What are the key differentiators between you and other players?
The other online art marketplaces are mostly uncurated and don’t do much other than providing online space to the artists. Online galleries have limited choice. Online auctions are successful, however customer preferences are increasingly shifting towards click and buy immediately, often via smartphone, as opposed to waiting for an auction. Artbeep aims to offer wide choice which is curated and is available for purchase now.
How do you select artists you collaborate with?
Before selecting artists to collaborate with, we connect with curators around the world to ensure that we are finding the best talent in a given country and region. We never exclude artists based on style, but we do differentiate between professional artists with dedicated careers, and those who view art as a mere hobby.
We travel all over the world in search for talented artists. We started the project in Southern & Eastern Europe, where our team has more connections and the artists lack global exposure.
How many artists and artworks are currently on Artbeep?
We have over 1000 artworks by approximately 125 artists from 10 countries - Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Ukraine and UK.
Do artists approach you to join Artbeep?
Yes, we get approached all the time. Artists also tag Artbeep Instagram page along with Tate, Art Basel, Freeze, National Gallery, MoMA, etc. We are obviously very pleased and honoured to be approached and be among such names. However, brand building takes time and we have a very long way to go.
What is the next step for Artbeep?
Expand into new regions (Middle East, Asia, Africa), build our brand and expand customer base. In terms of customers, we plan to target regular art lovers but also collectors, interior designers and corporates, including real estate developers and companies that make corporate collections. We plan to raise some money in the future to fund our growth.
How is art market changing in your view?
Art market is changing from a niche market towards becoming a global industry. Aging population in developed countries will ensure that art market will keep growing. It will continue to pivot to the east and Asian collectors will be the biggest buyers in the years to come. People increasingly rely more on own taste and less on art critics and are increasingly interested in art from around the world. Most galleries will keep struggling and will lose market share. Transparency of the market will increase in the coming years and savvy buyers will want the best price with low % going to intermediaries.
What about the online art market?
Online art market grew almost 5 times in the past 4 years to approximately $4 billion. Although online art sales grew at high double digit growth a year, they still represent only a small proportion, 6-7%, of overall market. Online will keep increasing. Recent surveys show that over half of the younger people are prepared to buy art online.
Social media, Instagram in particular, has become the primary way to discover art, with nearly a quarter of art buyers finding artworks via social media, with museums (20%) and galleries (16%) coming second and third as buyers’ primary source of discovery. People are seeking new experiences these days and discovering and buying artworks online satisfy consumers’ preferences of spending money on experiences rather than on material goods.
What are the implications of these trends for Artbeep?
The change in consumer behaviour is obvious and it is clear that the online will become increasingly more important. People are comfortable enough to buy almost anything online these days as long as it is from a reputable source. It’s the same with original artworks; just the price point is much higher.
Long time ago buying a book or a small item from Amazon was scary for some people. Until very recently, some ultra luxury brands didn’t consider internet as a proper place to sell. Seeing and trying the “real” product before making the final decision was considered very important. The belief was that physical experience delivered through excellent customer service could not be recreated digitally. This view started to change in the beginning of 2016. It’s only a matter of time before people start buying items, including artworks, online at higher price points.
The challenge for Artbeep is to become a strong brand and a reputable source in the minds of art lovers by the time that happens.