The online art database Artsy said it has raised $5.6 million in new investment and has added Internet entrepreneur Sky Dayton to its board of directors. Dayton, the chairman of Boingo Wireless Inc., joins Artsy founder and chief executive officer Carter Cleveland and Wendi Deng, co-CEO of film company Big Feet Productions and wife of Rupert Murdoch. Dayton has founded and helped build technology companies including EarthLink Inc., Boingo and Helio that have gone public or been sold for almost $3 billion in aggregate market value.
He’ll be involved in the strategy, fundraising and business development of New York-based Artsy. The website allows visitors to browse and comment on artworks and pursue sales through links to galleries. Artsy gets a fee on sales it facilitates. “He sees the same opportunity in the online art market as he saw in the Internet almost 20 years ago,” said Cleveland, 26.
The art market’s growing online segment has attracted heavyweights like Christie’s International as well as startups such as Paddle8, VIP Art and Artspace. Last week, Artspace announced that it had raised $8.5 million in new funding from investors, including venture-capital firm Canaan Partners.
Artsy has drawn prominent supporters including advisers Larry Gagosian and Pandora Media Inc. CEO Joe Kennedy. Investors include Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt and Dasha Zhukova, who is billionaire Roman Abramovich’s partner and an art collector.
The company has legal rights to about 25,000 images of artworks. Artsy maps out connections between artists and artworks by using what it dubbed the Art Genome Project, a collaboration between art historians and computer scientists. “Our focus has been to create a large database and now we are more focused on the commercial aspect,” Cleveland said. “To create a marketplace, you need to know where the art is and what people like.” Tomorrow, Artsy will offer collectors the first peek at artworks that will be exhibited at the Armory Show — a week before the fair opens to the VIPs on March 6. About 85 percent of the exhibitors have contributed images to Artsy’s Armory Show platform.