Galleries 23-11-2016

The advent of art & technology may be upon us but Artlogic is where it all started

When looking at the evolution of the art market over the last 15 years, there are two things that stand out. Firstly, that sales price records have been coming thick and fast and secondly that art fairs are now the most dominant cog in the art market machine. But for those who work in galleries there have also been huge advances in the field of digital organization.

It might sound obvious to talk about the use of technology in any domain, it is the way the world works today. But once upon a time, art galleries were not the well-oiled machines that they are today, and gallery assistants spent most of their time under piles of paper, responsible for highly valuable cultural archives. And so the gallery welcomed paperless with open arms.

Peter Chater, founder of the inventory management platform Artlogic, who counts among its clients prestigious galleries including Victoria Miro, Paul Kasmin, Esther Schipper and Skarstedt, led the art world’s digital revolution and is responsible for the ripple effect it has had on collectors, professionals, and art-lovers.

During the 90s, all documentation in galleries was written up with typewriters — the art world always has been a late adopter of anything technological — and stock rooms were overflowing with photos, artist biographies and inventories. Chater was at this time working for Karsten Schubert Gallery. "Having recently purchased my first computer I saw an opportunity to streamline work at the gallery and began creating a database for our contacts and inventory,” he says. “This was the initial catalyst towards thinking about a more comprehensive database solution." And so the first digital inventory management software was born.

Peter Chater with Karsten Schubert c. 1991

Many long-established art firms were "particularly cautious". It is hard to imagine today, the digital era has infiltrated the art world well beyond galleries, and a large portion of collectors are now insisting that artworks can be viewed, explained and classified on a digital screen in seconds. “If you aren’t able to facilitate that then you may be damaging your chances of making a sale,” says Chater.

Beyond digital presentation and management services, the online art market is in continual growth "the online market place was one of the few areas of the art market that experienced significant growth last year," remarks Chater.

The move towards ever more user-friendly technology has implanted Chater and his business at the center of the art market, their products becoming indispensable. “The immediacy in which we can consume information is unprecedented and a total game changer,” he says “It is easy to forget that our phones are just very small computers but it is their incredibly intuitive user interface design that has allowed even the most technologically averse individuals to embrace their capabilities.”

Artlogic - The ‘PrivateViews’ app,  Courtesy Artlogic

Furthermore, Artlogic has paved the way for other projects that sit at the intersection of art and technology, having most importantly gained the trust of the art world. “We focus primarily on safeguarding our clients’ data,” says Chater. “Transparency within the art world has its pros and cons, but like all of us, collectors don't want their buying habits to be released into the public domain.” Since the conception of Artlogic, collectors and gallerists alike have opened up to further technological possibilities, not least, Artsy, artnet and ArtSpace, online sales platforms, “they have the ability to gather incredibly interesting data on the habits of the art market in general. Plus these platforms can provide additional assurances to the validity of artworks by selectively managing both the organisations and artworks that they represent.”

But even with the advent of technological art companies, Artlogic is not totally handing over the torch, they are a company that is adapting with the times “we will be working on ‘phase two’ of Artlogic 3 later this year,” confirms Chater additional developments will include a QR code stock checking function that will enable users to track their inventory locations more efficiently using mobile devices and adding the ability to take online payments on invoices or via privately curated web pages with the Artlogic software.

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