ArtVenue: A Mobile App That’s Launching Art Careers

It’s the classic conundrum for many a new college grad: No one will hire you because you don’t have experience, but you can’t get experience because no one will hire you. In the world of art, emerging artists often suffer the same fate. Reputable galleries don’t want to show emerging artists because they don’t have a proven track record of sales, but the artists can’t get those sales because they don’t have any places to show their work.

At least, that’s how it used to be. Fortunately, clever artists have found inventive ways to get their works of art before the public’s eyes in other venues, such as restaurants, coffee houses, libraries, and gift shops. Basically, anyplace with some blank walls will do, as long as the artist can hang up some pieces and stash a few business cards around to allow for contact.

Finding such venues can require a lot of legwork, but a new social media app out of the Boston area called ArtVenue is making the process a whole lot easier. Here’s how it works: Artists upload their profiles along with a small portfolio of work to ArtVenue. They then send requests to any venues in the system, asking the venue manager to take a look at their portfolios and consider setting up an exhibit. Meanwhile, any venue willing to liven up its walls with the works of emerging artists can peruse any of the portfolios and connect with those artists whose works fit the style and theme of the venue.

On average, each exhibit lasts about one month, and ArtVenue actually provides QR codes on placards hung next to each piece that will take people directly to the artist’s selling page within ArtVenue.com, the companion website. ArtVenue’s owners stress that the app is as much about making sales as it is about making connections (Thibault, 2012). There are currently about 25 artists and 30 venues in ArtVenue’s Boston-area network (ArtVenue, 2012), and the ArtVenue team is continually recruiting more (Morris, 2012).

The ArtVenue app and website are free for both artists and businesses to use. However, each venue takes a 20 percent commission off each piece sold, and ArtVenue takes an additional 10 percent. Still, most artists are thankful for the remaining 70 percent of every sale, and especially for the exposure.

ArtVenue’s website proves to be a valuable resource for emerging artists in other ways, as well. The site contains plenty of useful tips on marketing and selling artwork, developing portfolios, writing artist statements, and much more. There’s also a blog that features art-related news and events.

ArtVenue was established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just last summer by co-founders Dan Vidal (who came from BzzAgent) and Casey Rankin and Jesse Rankin (the co-founders of the daily deal aggregator called DealGatore) (Morris, 2012). Celebrating its first anniversary, ArtVenue has already garnered a lot of attention. In fact, it has received funding from a local startup incubator, and it was one of only eight startups invited by the Startup America Partnership to participate in a trading day on the New York Stock Exchange in February (Thibault, 2012). If they can continue to make the numbers work, I predict we’ll see ArtVenue expanding rapidly into new markets throughout the U.S. and beyond.

—Jennifer

ArtVenue (2012). ArtVenue, retrieved from http://www.artvenue.com/.

Morris, Cheryl (April 13, 2012). Meet ArtVenue: Empowering local artists with technology, BostInno, retrieved from http://bostinno.com/2011/04/13/meet-artvenue-empowering-local-artists-with-technology/.

Thibault, Ally (February 1, 2012). ArtVenue enriches community, helps artists, The Suffolk Journal, retrieved from http://suffolkjournal.net/2012/02/artvenue/.