Artsy's Daniel Doubrovkine; The Future is Art

This July Vastari, in conjunction with Christie’s Auction House and Christie’s Education, are co-curating the Art + Tech Summit which “aims to spark innovation and collaboration across the industry, pinpointing a key technology trend each year to explore through inspiring talks, panel discussions, and debates." This year the subject will be blockchain technology, which has been incorporated into several industries. The summit fosters the conversation about applying blockchain to bring more transparency to the international art world. In order to get everyone ready for the summit, we at Vastari wanted to highlight some of the keynote speakers at the event to give insight into why they will be at the summit and what might be in store for those who join us on July 17th.

First up is Daniel Doubrovkine, or dB as he prefers to be called, the CTO of Artsy who will be giving a TED-style talk entitled The Future is Art. dB’s presentation will explore how he envisions the evolution of art, and the role it will play in society in the not too distant future. It is no wonder dB has the future in mind. He is helping to run a company, Artsy, which is constantly evolving, incorporating and creating new technologies, and working to make art not just democratized online but aims to make it as popular as music. When we sat down to speak with him, his energy and excitement for what is to come was infectious. When asked about what his thoughts were about an event like the Art + Tech Summit, he found parallels today with the early days of the internet. He expanded further, saying,

“This time around, many people want to be at the forefront. Now is a good time in which we can define how technology is used, what we actually do with it, and how it can be useful to everyone in more traditional businesses. So, it’s never too early to be incorporating technology into the conversation and we have very few implementations of the blockchain today. This is a great time, better early, than too late.”

dB couldn’t be more on the nose, it is never too early to start the discussion. With the world rapidly changing, the art world must meet the demands of its consumers who - as dB and many other have noticed - have expressed concerns around its market transparency. They want to know where their works came from and where they are going. dB suggests this does not just apply to the transactions of buying and selling of works but to the data on market information and research; namely consumers want to trust that data is coming from reliable sources.

As many of you will have heard, TEFAF has suspended its annual report after eighteen years and will offer more specialized reports instead. Artsy will be working with TEFAF for the first time this year, as an art fair partner. They will be “partnering on an initiative called TEFAF TWENTY, which is a year-round online-exclusive rotating selection of TEFAF exhibitors and works curated by the fair.” In terms of reports, dB hopes that in the future all reports on the art market will meet the same standards. When scrutinised, it should reveal the actual data came from a reliable source that is an authority on that data. This way, it proves that there is enough data to provide actual meaning, trends and projections. The easiest way to get the data, according to dB, would be for the biggest players in the art world to commit themselves to sharing their information.

Based on the reputation the art world has, this may seem easier said than done to some of us. The biggest players just handing over their information for the good of the art world, how likely is that? dB thinks the art world is working to change its reputation, the art world has changed tremendously over the last 5 to 7 years, and according to him, those key players could be convinced by the innovative members of the art world who can show value in their innovation.

One example of innovation is Artsy’s Art Genome Project which uses data to create unrestricted opportunities for discovery. dB explained how the project builds upon art historians’ ratings of individual works, “curating a virtual exhibition of work” similar to works a user has searched. Instead of setting limitations or restrictions like other online services or apps, Artsy’s Art Genome Project “creates this amazing view into the art world because you can ‘like’ very different things, and it will surface a more diverse group of artists and artworks. Recommendation technology can often be narrowing, but in the case of the Art Genome Project, it’s the opposite: it brings more art and artists from the far-away edges of the graph,” as dB describes.

With technology like this, the art anyone can discover online could be virtually endless. Partners like UBS, Gucci, BMW, and others recognized the value and potential of Artsy, funding additional projects like the Venice Biennale content from 2015 and 2017. This exclusive content is then available, free to anyone with internet access.

But what if internet access is no longer as free to the public? The laws of net neutrality have already been introduced in the US and with increasingly authoritative profiteering views of governments, the idea that the internet could be restricted to those who have the funds is scary to think about. dB admits it is something that he thinks about a lot. In the early days of the internet he was a Soviet refugee in Switzerland and dial-up internet was extremely expensive. He recalls having ridiculous phone bills and thinking today about how far we have come to basically having free internet. Creating barriers is something that concerns him, and Artsy has worked hard to ensure that Artsy’s art and free content would be sustained on their platform in case this becomes a reality.

dB hopes, like many of us, that this never becomes a reality. Instead he hopes our reality includes our youth growing up in a world where art feeds their knowledge and helps develop their critical thinking skills. He believes education and access to art are essential for the present and the future.

At the end of our interview we asked one final question we will ask all of the speakers we highlight from the Art + Tech Summit. What does art + tech mean to you?
For Artsy, they incorporate both, one of its values is art and science, or otherwise art and technology.

“The way we describe it, you always have to think about it creatively, the art side and the quantitative, which is the data side of things. It is like left brain and right brain.”

For dB, personally he has always been very good at math and pretty good at art. As a technologist they are one and the same, interwoven, both ultimately play on the same creative process. He challenges the distinction and separation people have between the two, suggesting instead a spectrum.

We look forward to hearing more about dB’s thoughts on art, technology, and the future at the Art + Tech Summit.