Friday, February 15, 2013

"Renting" art

Feb 15, 2013

Startups & Venture Capital

Startup offers Netflix-like subscription mail model for art

Taryn Plumb, Special to the Journal

Jason Gracilieri is founder and CEO of TurningArt, which rents pieces of art to both consumers and corporate entities.
W. Marc Bernsau

A young designer at an architectural firm doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on fine art — but she wants to display it on her walls, and she doesn’t want to have to settle for cheap prints from a big-box store.
So about six months ago, the designer, Allison Price, signed up for TurningArt. The Boston-based startup offers a Netflix-like subscription mail model that allows people to rent pieces of wall art on a rotating schedule.
Now, the Somerville resident gets two, 16-inch by 20-inch works — one for the bedroom, one for the living room — per month, and has developed favorites in the watercolor maps of Emily Garfield, and the raw portraiture of Eunika Rogers, among others.
“I’m still developing my taste in art,” said Price, “so the best part is I get to try different things out.”
Which is the dual purpose of TurningArt, according to founder Jason Gracilieri: To make art more accessible to the masses, and in turn, make the masses more accessible to artists.
The nine-employee company, founded in early 2010, works only with artists who are living and independently employed — there are no Monets or Warhols in the mix. So, in addition to bringing a little culture to its user’s lives, TurningArt provides a platform for artists to present and ultimately sell their work.
Memberships start at $10 a month, and new customers are asked to broadly define their tastes, and then are matched with a personal curator. Every dollar they spend earns them credits that can be used to buy framed or unframed prints — ranging from $65 to $260 — or to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of originals.
“You can discover artwork from across the country in your own home,” said Gracilieri, a former engineer who founded the company after facing his own conundrum of a new apartment and empty walls.
Regina Valluzzi, a contributing artist from Arlington, puts it this way: TurningArt “allows people to test different ideas and try on different statements without having to make an immediate commitment.”
On the other end, the program costs nothing for member artists, who get a piece of the membership costs, as well as a cut whenever their work sells.
Valluzzi, whose landscapes, abstracts and line-drawings are inspired by her background in condensed matter and bioscience, has had work placed as far as Seattle and California — locations she’d be hard-pressed to break into on her own, she said. She also has access to a dashboard that she described as a “very rich and detailed sales funnel,” including how many people have come across her work in site searches, and how many of her prints are in people’s homes.
“They have been reaching exactly the people who respond strongly to my work; exactly the people I want to reach,” she said.
Although Gracilieri didn’t cite specific numbers, he did say that TurningArt ships “thousands” of pieces to all of the lower 48 states (they don’t currently serve Alaska or Hawaii), with customers ranging from corporate entities to everyday consumers.
The company is backed by $2.25 million in funding — $750,000 from a seed round in March 2011 led by NextView Ventures of Boston, and another $1.5 million in May 2012, also led by Next-View.
“There are thousands upon thousands of artists, and millions and millions of consumers out there with even more walls,” Gracilieri said. “The opportunity is huge.”

Original story link here. 

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