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New art app works like Tinder, Spotify and Instagram to help collectors discover preferences

It lets non-art experts discover and buy art that they love.

Appreciate a good painting and want to buy an artwork someday, but don’t know where to start? Arto could be your solution.

The Singapore-based startup, founded by Dutchman Jonie Oostveen, has created an eponymous app. Using its proprietary, artificial intelligence-powered “Art Recommendation Engine”, Arto helps art enthusiasts of all levels of expertise find artworks they like based on their preferences.

Oostveen describes the app this way: “Take art as your main ingredient. Add a good dose of Instagram, blend it with Tinder and add a dash of Spotify, this is what you get, Arto!”

  • Swipe right to like an artwork

Upon launch, the app shows an art stream (like in Instagram) in which you can scroll up or down to view more artworks. You can also tap “More details” on a particular piece to look at its title, artist, specs, concept and retail price. If you fancy a certain artwork, you can swipe right on it (like in Tinder) to indicate that you love it. The app will automatically save your liked artworks under the Likes tab, which you can open to view anytime.

The more you use the app, the more it will learn about your taste in art, and recommend (like in Spotify) artworks that you are likely to appreciate. Tip: Don’t just swipe right. Swipe left on a painting to denote a dislike; this helps Arto better discern your preferences.

It uses the digital to bring the art industry – traditionally patronised by the rich or artsy-fartsy – to the masses. The app can be streamed via Apple TV or Google’s Chromecast to transform the TV into a digital canvas.

Oostveen hails ARTO as a first-of-its-kind platform. He tells me that while there are many websites and apps where you can buy art, none has a recommendation engine that helps you find art pieces based on your taste. “With the other services, you have to search for art. Arto has reversed the process. Don’t search – we will recommend it.”

Arto, which has more than 20,000 art pieces selling from US$100 to over US$20,000, takes a transaction fee (paid by the gallery or artist, not the consumer) for every piece that is sold through its platform.

It has inked partnership agreements with art providers, including galleries, independent artists, art fairs and museums. With the former three, the agreement is for the app to display their artworks with the objective of selling them. With museums, the objective is not commercial; it is to make their art accessible to the masses, which Arto seeks to do. Among the big-name art providers are the Singapore Art Museum, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Absolut Art, Affordable Art Fair and Art Stage.

It was in December 2015 when Oostveen conceptualised Arto. Then, the Dutchman had just moved into a new apartment in Singapore and was searching for art. The process, he said, was tedious. It involved foraging through different websites and looking at hundreds of works of art before finding that one piece he wanted. “It’s difficult to describe your own art taste or the particular type of painting you’re seeking, and I knew there had to be a better way.”

With over 12 years in the mobile tech industry, it was only natural that Oostveen wanted “an app for that”, one that also functioned a lot like Spotify, where he was director for partnership business development at the time. And so he took that idea, incorporated an Instagram-like feed, and blended it with the swiping functionality of Tinder, and Arto was born.

As Mark Twain once said: “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.”

For businesses creating a new product, it may make sense to adapt best practices from already-popular platforms, simply because people are accustomed to their functionalities and will believe that they can understand the product more easily. Sometimes, there is really no need to reinvent the wheel.

Adapted from The Business Times.