New York VC invests in Fine Art startup

A New York-based early-stage VC fund called Founder Collective is taking an unusual bet on a niche online market: Fine Art.

According to TechCrunch, the company is investing a cool US$4-million in Paddle8 — an online marketplace that aims to provide people “With new access points to premier artworks”.

Founder Collective is reportedly no stranger to investing in niche tech markets, having previously put capital into luxury vehicle hire app Uber and open-source hardware outfit MakerBot.

Paddle8 says it hopes the capital infusion will allow it to position itself as a destination of choice for everyone from beginner to veteran art collectors.

It is, in effect, a virtual gallery with a new curator brought in every month. The curator’s job is to select a group of works around a specific theme.

According to Paddle8 “Artworks in each exhibition are accompanied by a “dossier” that provides context, insights and multiple pathways to understanding specific artist’s practices”.

“Over time” it says, “the content created for each exhibition becomes a multimedia archive that serves as an educational tool for all visitors to Paddle8.”

Lofty goals, you might think. On the other hand TechCrunch reports that Paddle8 is racking up around 100 000 page views a day and adding 2 000 “hand-picked” art collectors a month.

It also has a number of partnerships with 200 or so galleries, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on its side.

The extra funding means that Paddle8 can make the most of these partnerships. Given the levels of scrupulousness it claims to adhere to, as well as the daily visitor number, the works from any gallery selected for a preview exhibition on the site is guaranteed some pretty good exposure.

Although Paddle8 claims that it’s trying to cater for a wide range of art collectors, it is still trying to preserve some of the exclusivity usually associated with the scene.

The site reportedly selects its members “through online application or by invitation for the purpose of creating a trusted arts community.”



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