Misha Stoutenbeek interviews: Justin Anthony, founder Artwork Archive.
I know Justin Anthony through my LinkedIn group Art Professionals worldwide. As an American that lived in my country -The Netherlands- we share more things than only art. There is a story and motivation behind his art business worth sharing and for this interview I was especially interested in the advice Justin has for artists that aim to become professional career artists.
Why did you start Artwork Archive, what is your purpose/belief/goal/motivation behind it?
Artwork Archive has strong familial roots. The idea for Artwork Archive grew out of something I saw my mother struggling with in her art career. As she started to gain recognition as an oil painter, she got to the point where she knew she needed a tool to help her keep track of her sales, contacts, shows — and just generally keep her work organized.
She had tried many different programs — all of which felt outdated and were difficult to use. The one program she tried to stick with had no backup feature and only existed on her computer. She ended up having her computer crash and she lost all her information (which is a story we hear all too often from artists). It was then that she came to me with the idea. We knew we could build something better, and that’s when we started.
We knew the site had to be easy-to-use yet powerful enough to work for all types of artists at all stages of their career. We wanted it to be cloud-based and have daily backups so artists never had to worry about losing their data. What originally started out as something just for my mom soon spread by word of mouth and we now have thousands of artists around the world using the site. Over the following years, we kept improving the site based on direct artist feedback.
We now have what we feel is the single best tool for artists to manage all aspects of their career, get organized, and ultimately make better decisions on how to market and produce their art. The more organized you are and the easier the tool is to use, the more time you have to spend in the studio
creating instead of worrying about the business details. We’re incredibly proud of what we built and our artists love the site.
How does Artwork Archive accomplish your purpose/goal?
Our main goal is to help artists succeed in their careers. The “business of art” is an area that all artist seem to struggle with at some point in their career. We wanted to make the administrative side of your art career more seamless.
We try and give artists a path to achieve success in an easy and simple way. Registering a sale in the system instantly lets you assign it to a client, track that client's history and then print out an invoice at the click of a button. Need to know what pieces are available and when? We have you covered. Once pieces are assigned to a location, we make it simple to produce professional consignment reports and inventory sheets.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard about artists who have lost work, or misplaced collector information, or simply forgot about a sale they had made at some point in the past. Artwork Archive makes all that simple to track and gives you a complete history of your work, sales, contacts, and showings.
We’ve heard time and again how helpful the program is to our artist's success, and it’s something we take great pride in. We have artists tell us how much they struggle with computers and yet find our site incredibly easy to use. Everything we do is centered around artist success and we feel that we’ve become a critical component of our artists’ careers and life’s work.
What does Artwork Archive offer/do for artist/galleries/collectors?
We understand that as an artist, you need to be an entrepreneur, marketing professional, sales expert, and inventory manager; that’s a big challenge. Artwork Archive gives artists simple yet powerful tools to get organized, save time, and manage their careers with confidence.
Collectors and Galleries have some similar needs to artists when it comes to inventory management, but also have some unique requirements and different motivations. The vast majority of collectors and art professionals come to us to preserve, protect, and organize the details of their collection —so they can relax and enjoy their art, secure in the knowledge that all the information they need is at their fingertips. We provide a simple and secure way to do that.
Galleries and organizations have a few more complex needs, and we continue to adapt the program to adapt to those needs.
For whom (artists/galleries/collectors/other) is Artwork Archive most suitable/effective?
Actually, Artwork Archive is a great solution to inventory management for all of these groups. While we started off primarily as a tool for artists to organize their businesses, and this continues to be the main focus for us, we have in recent years expanded to address the needs of collectors, galleries, and organizations.
At the heart of our product is, and always has been, artists. However, we noticed a growing need for collectors and organizations that have large art collections to be able to document and organize their works digitally. Plus, these two worlds overlap in so many ways - and they really need each other to truly thrive.
Coming out of this realization, we essentially built a product that had to be powerful enough to manage thousands of artworks for large corporations like Neiman Marcus, but has pared down versions for say, an individual artist who just needs to keep track of which galleries their work is being displayed in.
What are their (your audience) biggest needs in your view?
By and large, our users come to us with an overwhelming need to get organized. Especially when artists start showing more, selling more, and gaining more clients, they need a way to keep track of all of that so they can manage their business professionally and make informed business decisions.
One of our artists found us after she accidentally sold a piece that had already sold in a gallery. You would be surprised at how often this happens, or how frequently artists just really have no idea what is in their inventory.
Being able to quickly access what you have available, where it is and all the details surrounding it can be the difference between a successful career and one that never takes off. In the very least, it takes some of the stress out of the administrative side of making a career as an artist.
What advice do you have for artists that aim to make a full-time living of art?
Above all, master your craft. Keep practicing and getting out there and taking up every opportunity that you are presented with. Be prepared to work hard and face criticism. Don’t stop.
Then, treat art as your professional career. The difference between a hobby artist and a professional artist is that they view their work both as their passion and as their business.
Make sure you have your basics covered. Arrive on time to meetings, follow up with your clients, have inventory lists and works available for potential buyers.
Where/how should artists start when they aim to become professionals and build their career?
A great place to start when building your career is right in your local community. When you start locally you have a built-in group of people that enjoy supporting local artists. Especially if you are just starting out, approach your neighborhood cafe, attend local art fairs, and donate your art to local charities.
Use this as a time to receive feedback and grow your fan base. Happy customers are the best type of advertisement. Don’t expect to gain gallery representation right away. So many successful artists cut their teeth in local art fairs. You never know who you will meet, so always be prepared to meet with the head of a prestigious gallery, that way you treat every interaction with the highest level of professionalism.
Do you have any ideas/tips on how artist can effectively sell their art?
So many! The landscape for selling artwork is always changing and the best way to effectively make sales is to know where your particular artwork fits in.
For some artists, this will mean the traditional route of gaining gallery representation. For others, it means seeking out wholesale opportunities or merchandising your work. Most artists also have outlets to sell online.
There is no magic formula that works for every artist, unfortunately. Essentially, knowing your target audience, which outlets work best for you, and understanding pricing help a lot. This might take some testing.
Having something like Artwork Archive can help you gain insights into which avenues are most effective. By seeing which galleries, which online galleries, and which shows have had the most success, you can start to make educated decisions about where to sell your art effectively.
Do you have an example of how Artwork Archive helped an artist achieve its goals? (specific, measurable, traceable if possible with name and/or website.)
We talk to artists daily who are so thankful to have Artwork Archive save their reputation on a consistent basis and make it easier to manage their business.
While we hear all the time from people who have been discovered or made sales from their Discovery page, our biggest accomplishments come from the behind the scenes success stories.
Don’t just take our work for it, though. We recently we spoke with Chicago artist Jordan Scott, who said:
Most artists that use Artwork Archive have had a moment where they realized they were unorganized and needed something to make those aspects of their studio life easier.
I was doing this myself the old fashioned way with files. I would have a list, but I needed to be able to see at a glance where everything was. When I had one or two galleries it was ok, but when I started getting more and submitting to more shows, it got mentally and emotionally overwhelming to visualize where everything was. I didn't really have a solution for it.
Do you have an example of how Artwork Archive helped a collector/gallery to achieve its goals? (specific, measurable, traceable if possible.)
We have a number of private collectors and smaller estate collection success stories, but I think what we did for the Neiman Marcus collection is a good example. They had hundreds of locations and thousands of works of art that they needed to get organized. Information about these works was spread out over multiple systems, spreadsheets or unrecorded. They were looking for an easy-to-use comprehensive solution to organize and track all of their work.
I think that one of our most unique aspects is how closely we work with our users and this situation was no exception. They had some specific needs that we thought would benefit our user base as a whole and were happy to address them to ensure it was a solution that truly worked for them.
Do you wish to share your view on today’s art-world and/or art-market?
We are lucky enough to talk with collectors, gallerists and art professionals on a daily basis and the one thing I think they all agree on is how quickly the art world/market is changing right now. With access to new technology, the way we consume art and communicate about art is changing the way the public interacts with artwork. There is a whole new audience that otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to certain artists and art if not for platforms like Instagram.
Of course, brick and mortar galleries are still a hugely important player in this game, but the way galleries reach or discover artists has also shifted. We have from artists that have had galleries reach out to them directly because they found them on Instagram.
The traditional gallery/artist relationship is being disrupted. Gaining representation has huge career benefits, but more and more artists are launching their careers by leveraging their presence on the internet. Having the right blog or publication feature you has the potential to launch a career.
What do you think the people expect from art nowadays? What would they like to see?
This is such a hard question because not everyone is the same. In general, though, and statistically, people are collecting contemporary art at much higher rates than any other type of artwork. Moreso, you see people (collectors, in particular) gaining this newfound confidence to collect art that really intrigues them. They aren’t afraid to push the boundaries and really go for something perhaps is perceived as little strange. Because of the way groups are formed online, they are gaining confidence to buy artwork that pushes them, makes them uncomfortable, or is extremely rooted in pop-culture.
In the past, a new aesthetic would percolate slowly into the gallery scene, sometimes only to emerge long after the artist was deceased. Now, artistic trends can begin at the tip of someone’s finger — and they are moving very quickly.
Anything else you would like to say to our worldwide community?
I think the main message I’d like to leave the audience with is to check us out. It’s a free trial with no obligations and we encourage all of you to give it a try at www.artworkarchive.com
Special: 20% discount from Vocation For Art if you use the link above.