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The growth in the globalization of the art market, paired with the acceleration of buying and selling online as a result of our increased time spent in front of screens, has paved the way for a digital revolution in the art world.
The latest to enter the mobile app space is Artwide, the members-only international art trading platform established in 2014. At the core of Artwide’s mission is the ease of confidential and secure transactions. “Auction houses are expansive and cannot match the client's needs in terms of confidentiality and quality of tailor’s made approach,” said Artwide member Louis Negre. “There is a real role to play for an Internet native player in this field.”
Its members around the world are given exclusive access to unique works of art from the 1700s to today, across mediums. Supported by an international network and team providing bespoke services, the platform has strategic partners that allow it to aid and guidance in shipping, storage, insurance, security, and more. Pierre Levy is an avid collector and user of Artwide. He shared, “To be different and transparent have been the keys for me to join: different in their approach, not populating an artwork to a listing of people. Transparent in the fees they take as buyer and seller know exactly how much Artwide takes, even when it is a reduced fee.”
The new app boasts a variety of functions, including a customizable alert for its members in search of names like Yves Klein, Fernand Léger, Wim Delvoye, or Sol Lewitt. Said Negre, “The App creates a whole new dimension, in terms of facility of use and access to the market.”
To learn more about Artwide’s app and approach in the digital art market space, Whitewall spoke with the company’s CEO and co-founder, Jean-Michel Melemedjian de Rus.
WHITEWALL: What made now the right time to launch an app for Artwide?
JEAN-MICHEL MELEMEDJIAN DE RUS: A trio of factors have benefited the launch of the App. First, undoubtedly, is the current pandemic, which has obliged people and entities to work remotely, to think wider in their offer and global in their clientele. The second is the acceleration to adopt technologies to show, display, and transact the works of art. NFTs before the pandemic would probably have required five to seven years to become reality. The last is a generation change—players are younger, well connected, time is of the essence, and profits shall be quick. We still have collectors, also "flippers, investors, distressers, bargainers, bankers, and fund managers" who see artworks as an asset class
WW: What does the App offer for the members-only platform?
JMMDR: A confidential, private, and secure way to acquire and sell artworks. Members do not know who is bidding, and vice versa. We are developing a Target Audience Module enabling members to only select precise buyers, and vice versa when buyers are looking for specific artworks.
WW: Who is a good fit for Artwide?
JMMDR: Any art player who wants to buy or sell in full confidentiality and to only selected profiles, people, and territories. We have artworks that sell from a few thousand to several million.
WW: The way that collectors look and buy art has evolved since the launch of Artwide, especially over the past year. What have been some of those major changes you've noticed and how is that reflected in Artwide's platform?
JMMDR: Correct, people are much more reactive, checking comps and getting information online or via friends. Most of our buyers do not view the artworks they purchase, they often ask for an updated condition report, videos, images, and storage proof. Price and comps are becoming an important part of the deal. Private sales from auctions and galleries have a lot to offer, margins are small, and everyone needs to adjust to close a deal.
As the offers are "blind," the buyer has full leverage to make offers and get countered. As buyers and sellers never interact, offers and counters are becoming an important part of the transaction.
As members of Artwide, sellers have a unique way to propose one of their artworks discretely and identifying the perfect match. The artwork is not "burnt" nor shopped around.
We have agreements with 30-35 storage spaces worldwide to make the access and delivery of the artworks secure and to successfully close transactions.
WW: Artwide keeps the buyer and seller confidential on each transaction. Why is that important for your members?
JMMDR: It is key and part of our DNA. This will enable deals between parties that could not happen if they were face to face. Moreover, it removes some "ego" issues and makes members keen on bidding easily. Finally, and even we have this process, we know all our members and have for each transaction all supportive documents such as warranties.
WW: Are there artists, mediums, or subjects you've been seeing a growing interest in among your members?
JMMDR: Mediums are mainly canvas, sculptures, and drawings—these represent 99% of our sales. Periods: 15% impressionists, 10% 19th century, 45% 1900-1970, 30% after 1970.
Examples of the most in-demand artists right now: Zao Wu-Ki, Soulages, Nara, Basquiat, Haring, Monet, Hartung, Condo, Renoir, Chu Teh-Chun, Kusama, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Kandinsky, Richter.
WW: How did you become involved in the art world? Can you tell us about your own collection and interests?
JMMDR: I entered this market merely 20 years ago, working on another project mainly dedicated to art galleries. This is how I learned from these great people, met collectors, museums, and investors. From our perspective, the market needed an entity at the heart of it as an alternative to the auction houses. Since 2013 we are growing, now with members in 51 countries. I personally like, have, or follow Adrian Ghenie, Donna Huanca, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kaws, Zao, Chu, Soulages, Kandinsky, Richter.
Visiting art fairs, shows, and collections has definitely broadened my view on certain artists and on the galleries that support them.