The Art of Social: Users Share Artwork on ArtStack

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screenshot / ArtStack

To show you how ArtStack works, I stacked some classics by Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Marcel Duchamp, plus one of Jeff Koons' awesome balloon animal sculptures on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If you like going to museums, ArtStack may be the social platform for you. The site, which launched at the end of 2011, is a place for users to find, share, and discover art, architecture, design, and video.

Similar to Pinterest, ArtStack’s homepage boasts a panoply of images of artwork uploaded by users. Users can drag an “Add to ArtStack” button to the top of their browsers so that they can add photos while surfing the web, or download ArtStack’s iPhone app to snap pictures while gallery hopping.

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Pieces can be organized by artist, medium, dimensions, as well as by museum or gallery as a way to learn more about the collections at various art institutions. Users can also comment on the pieces and either give context or pose questions to curators. The image above is a screenshot of some of the art that I stacked to show what the site looks like.

ArtStack’s library ranges from masterpieces by Michelangelo, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso to pieces by budding contemporary artists. In less than a year, more than 10,000 artists have joined ArtStack and more than 32,000 works of art have been uploaded by users in 130 countries. (Britain, America, and China boast the most ArtStack users.) Some museums and galleries have their own ArtStack pages, such as London’s Serpentine Gallery, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, is one of ArtStack’s most influential users.

The London-based startup is the brainchild of three friends who met at Cambridge: Ezra Konvitz, James Lindon, and Alex Gezelius. While Gezelius’s background is in venture capital, Konvitz and Lindon both have master’s degrees in art history and have worked in the art world — Konvitz at the Serpentine Gallery and Lindon as an art dealer. The trio saw the need for a platform that allows users to share and talk about art online.

“Google is amazing if you know what you’re looking for, but the power of social lies in finding things you didn’t know about it,” Konvitz said in a phone interview. “People have always shared art by putting it on their walls, buying a book, or sending a postcard. We wanted to capture that activity online and grow that.”

ArtStack also allows users to organize stacked art into “collections” to essentially create their own online exhibitions — a helpful feature for emerging artists who want to showcase their portfolios. There are collections for established exhibitions and art fairs, such as the Vienna Fair or the Frieze Art Fair. Nobody is going to museum websites to look at art anyway, said Konvitz.  “People only go to museums’ websites to figure out what shows are going on and their opening hours, but museums don’t have a way of staying in touch with those people who come to the site,” he said.

Google has been trying to showcase museums’ collections online with its “Art Project“;   ArtStack, on the other hand, is more of a social network where users can talk to other art fans and keep track of their favorite works, especially ones by artists who have not done museum showings yet. Both sites, however, seem to have the same mission.

“A lot of the art world seems forbidden and a bit scary,” Konvitz said. “I hope that people who see art online are more likely to go see art offline.”

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