5 Questions with Artwork Archive Co-founder Justin Anthony

Aug 28, 2020

To start, we confess that because we have so much to discuss with Justin, we deviated from our usual 5-question format and added a 6th question here. Oh, and full disclosure: we also snuck in an additional bonus question!

That being said, we are thrilled to chat with Justin Anthony, co-founder of Artwork Archive, an innovative art business management software brand based in Denver, CO. Launched in 2010, they were one of the first cloud-based art inventory systems. Let’s find out why that’s important!

What motivated you to found Artwork Archive?

There's actually two parts to that story and I'll try to give the cliff's notes version.

John, one of the founders, originally created Artwork Archive for his mother who is an oil painter out of Colorado Springs, CO. She had a hard drive crash and lost years of information about her art career. This was over a decade ago and all the solutions out there were basically glorified spreadsheets that were vulnerable and limiting. John set out to create something that would truly fit the needs of a modern-day artist and worked with his mother and other artists around the country to help create the first cloud-based solution of its kind for artists.

The collection management side of the company was also created to address a personal need. I am a collector (and the other founder of Artwork Archive). My basement flooded and a number of works were damaged. I was unable to find the receipts and documentation for the works which made things incredibly difficult with the insurance company. When I looked for a collection management solution to help avoid this issue in the future, I discovered overly complex, overpriced and often antiquated solutions out there. John and I worked together to create a collection management solution focused on accessibility (ease of use, ease of collaboration, affordable price point) with an intention of disrupting the market. The platform is now used by artists, collectors and organizations in over 130 countries.

Is Artwork Archive for established collectors with expansive collections only? Or would emerging collectors benefit from this tool as well? If so, how?

We actually have a really diverse collector base using the platform.

For emerging collectors, it's great to have a tool that can help you build and catalog your collection thoughtfully as your collection grows. It’s never too early to digitize and track your collection details like purchase prices, provenance documents and artist information. Plus, it’s a lot easier to do it from the beginning rather than going back retroactively.

For established collectors, you have all the tools to simplify things like insuring your collection, accounting, and estate planning. Plus, established collectors have the more personal benefit of being able to fall in love with and appreciate their collection again. They have access to images and details anywhere.

While the desire to get the collection organized is typically the initial draw, no matter the stage the collector is in, there are a wide variety of features that benefit the collector throughout their lifetime and the evolution of their collection.

What’s the benefit of a cloud-based art inventory system?

Accessibility is definitely one of the biggest benefits. Being able to add to, update, share, and access your collection from anywhere on any device is essential. Many of our clients have art in multiple places and they have other people, professionals and institutions that they need to collaborate or share with. The Cloud simplifies those things.

And, by leveraging data security best practices, we can provide our clients with the peace of mind that comes with knowing their data is safe and secure which is a challenge with traditional "download only" solutions. It’s one of the biggest reasons why we exist. Almost everyone on our team has lost important data from computer crashes.

Lastly, the Cloud gives us the ability to seamlessly deliver product improvements and new features to our clients. This is something that just doesn't exist with traditional solutions.

How do you help artists become entrepreneurs?

When we started Artwork Archive ten years ago, our main goal was to help artists make a living doing what they love. And, while the company has evolved over the years and has solutions for collectors and art professionals, that original mission remains a core driving force.

Whether you like the label or not, if you are an artist, you are an entrepreneur. You are a small business owner and creativity alone is seldom enough to drive success. You have to wear a lot of hats—maker, sales person, marketer, customer support, etc.. To help artists focus on what they love doing (making art), we offer business solutions that cut back the administration time. Our features include sales and invoicing, expense tracking, report generation (like inventory sheets and consignment reports), contact management and a Public Profile that can be embedded on their website.

In addition to constantly working with our artist clients to provide the tools needed to help them manage and grow their businesses, we also spend a great deal of time providing educational content to help them thrive. Our blog, artworkarchive.com/blog, has become one of the go-to resources for both emerging and professional artists alike and focuses on all aspects of the entrepreneurial journey. It’s also a great resource for collectors!

And how can Artwork Archive support artists in a way that a gallery or an art agent can’t?

I don't think they are mutually exclusive. We have never looked to step into the roles of a gallery or agent and see ourselves as a platform that can complement both or neither.

We have an equal mix of artists with and without representation and in both cases, the tools we provide are equally beneficial. We have even built specific features to help simplify and improve the interaction between our artists and the third parties they choose to work with. For instance, we have a Discovery platform where artists share their portfolio and the compelling story of who they are as an artist. It’s a great opportunity to expand the artist’s network. We’ve seen interior designers, collectors and curators search the Discovery platform by location, medium, price, etc.. Digital platforms can break down geographical barriers and help share artwork in a more accessible way. But, we are just the platform for those connections. The communication and relationship building stems from and continues with the artists and buyers.

With the art market moving online more and more, how do you see the art market changing in the next 5 years?

The art industry has traditionally lagged behind other industries when it comes to technological innovation. The current pandemic has done more to accelerate the move online and we've seen a dramatic change in the market. Artists who relied on galleries, art fairs, exhibitions and other in-person experiences are all of a sudden finding themselves without those outlets and are racing to find alternatives to showcase their work and share who they are as an artist.

Dealers, galleries and art institutions around the world are also facing similar challenges and are trying to find the most effective ways to get their art in front of their respective audiences. We’ve seen a lot of exhibitions and showcases moving online while doors are closed, and social distancing restricts access.

Those of us that have focused on online solutions are well positioned for this change. But there are countless solutions in the space that aren't pivoting and we're already seeing some of the consequences as clients seek alternatives. For instance, we’ve had many art consultants, collectors and collecting institutions come to us because they need a system that is accessible anywhere and enables collaboration as people adjust to their new normal of remote working.

Art market services are forced to focus on innovating to meet the needs of modern times. I believe this will drive some of the most impactful technological advancements the art world has seen in decades.

All of that said, I don't believe we will see a significant change in the average price point for works sold online. Yes, there will be an initial bump up as there is little alternative for sales (not to mention more auction houses going to online transactions and artificially inflating the numbers). I still believe that art over the $1000 price point will still be mostly purchased through more traditional/personal means.

While I have confidence that we'll see some major technical advancements, it's hard to imagine that in five years we'll have a widely adopted means of replicating the experience that comes with seeing a work of art in person, not to mention the chance to personally interact with the artist.

BONUS QUESTION: What international art destination do you want to visit most?

Paris remains one of my favorite art destinations. The access to classics combined with the raw street art and off-the-beaten-path galleries is a powerful lure. And, the wine and food doesn't hurt the experience.

1AN members receive 20% off their first year subscription to Artwork Archive! Get your discount here!

NOTE: Please be sure to check out Artwork Archive's webinar, which launches on October 12th, 2020: COLLECTION CERTAINTY DURING UNCERTAIN TIMES.

This course will give you the tools and information needed to protect and preserve your art collection.