A social network devoted to contemporary art is the latest concept by a couple of engineers, one Belgian and the other Dutch, to be presented to Silicon Valley experts.
On , San Francisco hosted TechCrunch Disrupt, an exhibition showcasing technological innovations that brings together experts and investors. This year’s event featured Curiator, a new application devoted to art.
Designed by Belgian and Dutch engineers Moenen Erbuer and Tobias Boonstoppel, both Internet and leading-edge technology experts, Curiator is a social platform where artists can show their work, and where Internet users can create their own virtual art museum much like a “curator,” or exhibition commissioner, and share it or follow others and their collections. It is the first version of the site before the addition of a commercial platform designed to sell works of art.
Art a latecomer to the Internet?
“The online art world is stuck in 1995,” even though it was one of the earliest industries to take advantage of the growth of the Internet, says Moenen Erbuer about the way professionals in the art world have approached the Internet.
Breaking with “clunky websites full of too-heavy image files, glitchy marketplace joint ventures full of false purchases and dodgy work,” Moenen Erbuer and Tobias Boonstoppel hope to take the art world into the twenty-first century with Curiator.
The two have applied their technical expertise and understanding of Internet user behaviour to develop “a user-friendly, attractive and intelligent site to help Internet users have confidence in their taste and assess the value of works.”
Tobias Boonstoppel is a former Google engineer, while Moenen Erbuer is recognized for his digital design skills, which he applies here to create highly visual and easy-to-use interfaces.
Curiator: a guide to gaining confidence about artistic taste… and eventually purchasing
In the first step to creating a Curiator account, the user selects works that he or she likes from a page of options. Following the same principle as other e-commerce sites, the system stores this data and then uses it to recommend a wider selection that the user may like.
Once the virtual gallery is created, users can share it on their networks by simply dragging the picture to the icon of the social network of their choice (Facebook, Twitter, Google + or Pinterest) and follow other users’ collections, which can be helpful indicators in appraising the value of a work of art.
Probably the most difficult challenge for an amateur collector is determining the quality and value of a work of art, and this is the main inspiration for the concept of this social platform. “A lot of people who have made a little money start buying art, but it’s an intimidating institution, going to galleries, fairs and auction houses. You see something you like, but don’t know if the price is right, or if it’s any good. If you’re not serious about art already, it’s hard to be confident about your own taste,” Moenen explained.
An encouraging start…but one challenge remains
While Curiator does not yet offer users the ability to purchase artwork, its initial version has a catalogue of 10 000 works of art from 37 000 artists and has attracted more users than anticipated who actively contribute to and enrich the catalogue of artwork.
The retention rate, the main indicator of a site’s performance that measures the percentage of visits to more than one page, is 17 percent, an overall satisfactory result for a newly created site.
But contrary to the image painted by Moenen Erbuer and Tobias Boonstoppel of an art world that has been reluctant to embrace Internet innovations, Curiator will have to face competition from earlier applications such as Pinterest, a site for sharing photos and links, or Artsy.
Created in 2012, Artsy is considered Curiator’s main competitor. Available since as a smartphone and iPhone application, Artsy provides access to a large catalogue of artwork exhibited in museums, galleries and private collections and lets users follow their value on the art market. It is also possible to share favourite artworks but not to follow other users.
Curiator hopes to stand out from its competitors with its social sharing and following features. There are no plans ever to add features such as advertising to monetize the site. The site’s business model is based on the collection of a commission from sales it arranges, which could easily give rise to problems of authenticity and provenance, some issues that remain to be worked out.