A San Francisco startup looks to disrupt the art market—again.
Inside an airy 1930s-era brick building on Ritch Street in San Francisco’s South of Market district, two former classmates from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and their team are plotting the next wave for the art world. “Digital art is postmodern art,” says Kimberly Gordon, co-founder and CEO of Depict, an online marketplace that launched late 2014 where in-house curators collaborate with artists to sell original digital pieces. “And we’re opening up a new channel that doesn’t require the buy-in needed in the traditional art world.”
Backed by investors including Jim Pallotta (who co-owns the Boston Celtics and is president of the A.S. Roma soccer team) and Weili Dai (co-founder of Marvell Technology), among others, Gordon and co-founder Shambhavi Kadam are targeting digital art collectors. The pieces are inspected for resolution, and then sold in unique editions thanks to technology that embeds an invisible signature on each image. These signatures mean that even if the work emerges on the open Internet, its exact provenance can be traced.
“We’ve created a way to manufacture scarcity, much like a lithograph or a photograph,” explains Gordon. They also have a subscription service that loans out digital art to users, who can then buy the work at the end of the month if they like it, and a third business model: the company’s pièce de résistance, a high-resolution digital frame designed by Branch Creative. If a user buys a piece of art on Depict they can “cast” it to their frames anywhere in their home. The duo is betting that serious digital art collectors will want to see work on a backdrop that channels paper. “It’s elegant. We wanted it to feel like an analog piece,” says Kadam of the $1,800 object, framed in American maple. “It will surprise you when the image starts moving.” depict.com.
Written and edited by Elizabeth Khuri Chandler.