Digital technologies allow startup companies to provide services in the online art market that would have been uneconomical or simply impossible in an offline business model.
One example of this type of digital innovation is Vastari.com (@Vastariupdate). Launched online earlier this year, Vastari is seeking to create a marketplace where private collectors and museum exhibition curators around the world connect in order to negotiate exhibition loans.
The relationship between collector and curator has always been mutually beneficial. The collector’s object can increase in reputation and value following inclusion in a high profile exhibition; and the curator gets unique objects to exhibit which may never previously have been seen in public. The number of museum exhibitions is increasing year on year (in London alone, there are currently 385 museum exhibitions on show). An indicator of success for the Vastari model will be an increasing number of labels in those exhibitions stating ‘Private Collection.’
Interestingly, for what is in part an application of social networking – connecting collectors and curators - Vastari emphasizes the discretion which their online approach offers over a traditional one. According to Angela Roldan at Vastari: “Presently, collectors are eager to lend their pieces to museums because they will benefit from an increased profile for the work of art, as well as additional research by the curatorial team,which could ultimately lead to an increase in value. By registering their pieces on Vastari, collectors will have a secure and direct connection with museum professionals. They can be in control of what information is passed on, eliminating any market exposure or third party involvement by someone with a commercial interest in the piece.”
Collectors can choose to remain anonymous initially. To further reassure clients listing their collections, the Vastari team monitors the credibility of every participant in their database, whether individual or institutional, based on their activity in the site (although they do not verify authenticity of listed items –conceivably this could be an add-on service provided by a third party in the Vastari system in future). The site also does not store any personal details about private or institutional members.
Bernadine Bröcker, founder and Managing Director of Vastari, adds: “Collectors have to communicate with curators via the market currently, and so deal with an annoying grapevine of forwarding letters. The whole process could be much more efficient, and a lot more discreet. Our goal is to help collectors share their works with the public and create interesting new links, without ‘burning’ the piece to the market and without the unnecessary headaches.”
Successful digital marketplaces create ecosystems which give rise to new business opportunities, and a growing number of digital services are aimed at collectors (see our Directory for more). The growth ;in digital services aimed at collectors could conceivably give rise to a secondary services market in database curation. Serious collectors will want to make the most of these databases, ensuring the information they hold is accurate, high quality and up-to-date in order to increase the exposure of their collection to the museum exhibition market.
Vastari points to the experience of a private collector in the Netherlands as a testimonial of their model: “I do not want to sell my collection, so I keep it private. But if there were an exhibition being planned, I want my works to be involved. I want to share these beautiful items with the world.”
The company has signed up over 300 collectors and over 100 museums since launch. The first international Vastari connections have already occurred between collectors and museums for exhibitions in the next four years. Registered members come from the United Kingdom,the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America.The service is currently free, but plans in future to charge an annual subscription fee.