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The digital world provides new opportunities for art and commerce

Olivier Berger and Angelica Fox of Wondereur.

Olivier Berger and Angelica Fox of Wondereur.

Berger packages artwork sold via Wondereur.

Fox prepares an info and authenticity card to be included with purchased artwork.

Fresh innovations are providing artists with unconventional ways to gain exposure beyond the gallery and sell their work in new markets. These modern technologies make it possible for artists to gain recognition on an international scale and spread their body of work to corners of the globe that, in a less technological age, would have been difficult to reach.
There has been an explosion of online art dealers in recent years, and here in Toronto Art Bomb is just one example of this phenomenon.  The daily online art auction features three rising stars in the art world each day chosen by the Art Bomb curators. Pieces don’t always sell, but the artists still get a profile on the site that drives traffic to their own websites and creates greater awareness of their work. 
"There are less than 100 galleries in Toronto and there are thousands of artists working, so there are very few opportunities for exposure for artists," says Carrie Shibinsky, Art Bomb co-founder. "There are a lot of places online that sell art, but Art Bomb is very different. It's the only one of its kind where we go to a potential buyer. We enter your inbox every day with one work, and you can fall in love with that work." 
Art Bomb recently launched editions in Vancouver, Montreal, and Atlantic Canada, providing three auctions on the site per day when it originally only had one from Toronto. The artists chosen for the site are selected by experienced curators, so users know the artwork they’re buying is coming from a talented maker. Curators go to art shows, galleries, marketplaces-- anywhere to find hot talent for the site. Art Bomb also features a fairly wide variety of styles, so while a user might not like what’s on the auction block today, tomorrow could be different.
"It’s designed for the average person who is really busy and they want embrace the art world. They want learn about art. They want to enjoy it. They don’t want to put posters on their wall, but they don’t have time to figure it out and see where it all begins," Shibinsky says.
There is exclusivity in the art gallery world that can be daunting for some people to face. Another Toronto art startup, Wondereur, overcomes this problem by bringing art to people in a visually expansive format. It’s an iPad app that features artists and their work, but also has the added feature of providing a story explaining the artist’s background and inspiration. Wondereur’s curators seek out talent in their neighbourhoods pro bono, and once an artist is chosen for the site they assign a photojournalist to spend a day with the artist to compile the story. 
"The reason why we created Wondereur is because we thought that selling art online is great, it's convenient for people, and it's easy to search. But art can’t be sold like shoes. Today it's sold like shoes--you put up a picture, you put up a price, you put 'buy' on the side, and that's it," says Wonderuer co-founder and business manager Olivier Berger. 
"Our belief was that a more distributed model was something that brought more to the art buyer right from the beginning," adds co-founder Angelica Fox. "Art is so personal that even a single work people will connect to in totally different ways and find something different to love in it. We wanted to give many different entry points to as many different people as possible.”

Logging into Wondereur, users are free to explore a rich, detailed world of art. You can browse featured artists and enjoy the pictures and paragraphs telling their stories, or you can order some of the art that you see. The slick, sharp interface and seamless transitions between panes makes Wonderuer much akin to flipping through a magazine. The element of making fantastic art accessible to all is ever present.
"The stories are meant to create an intimate moment," says Berger. "This intimate moment is not elitist at all. So whether you know the art world or not, you're going to get it."
This new model of selling art not only brings it directly to potential buyers, but also further entices them by presenting work in a multidisciplinary fashion. Combining art with contemporary technological features that are familiar to users just may be the way of the future. It's why York University just launched its Sensorium program combining digital arts and technological research in a bid to bridge the divide between art and interface. 
"There's a concept in design called universal design," says Fox. "It's a graduation from the concept of accessible design where the idea is to build things for people with certain limitations. The idea of universal design says you build something that's easy for everyone to use, and that was part of our design."
The ways that technology is changing the art business isn't limited to new ways of curating and presenting the artwork. Art from Concentrate is a start up company in Toronto with a unique business model of its own. It creates museum quality fine art prints at an affordable price and gives 50 per cent of the profits to the artists. Many online art dealers don't give near as much.

To keep costs down, the Art from Concentrate team operates their business out of their Toronto apartment for the time being while printing is done at a warehouse in Oakville on a huge 36" inkjet.  Museum quality means that their prints are made on 100 per cent cotton rag paper, which is the same stuff art galleries use. They also use archival inks and the printer sprays the ink in a fine mist allowing for precise detail.
Three friends from the University of Guelph founded Art from Concentrate. They came up with the idea at school when they realized that a lot of people on campus wanted fine art prints but couldn’t afford them. The fledgling company has been making roughly 10 sales a week and has a growth plan in place.
"Predominately sales are generated through word of mouth. That's probably our number one right now," says Ahren Brunow, Art from Concentrate co-founder.

"We have a big plan that we're about to implement. Basically it's a multi-pronged approach with physical marketing, so we’re going to do a postcard blitz to specific areas. We're also going to do a physical launch and collaborate with a gallery on a weeklong show not only showing our prints, but our artists are going to show some of their original work as well. We need to show people the physical prints because the computer screen doesn't do them justice. When you see them in person you can really appreciate the fine art element."
Artists interested in having their work distributed through Art from Concentrate can apply through the website with a pitch. They do have specific tastes for what they will print though. They go for a more contemporary, minimalist look. Highly abstract stuff may not be a good fit.
"We have a growing range of artists from the Toronto area, and abroad as well. We're trying to stick to Toronto just for ease right now," says co-founder Liam Sanaghan.
The online art market, just like many other online markets in today's changing economy, will continue to evolve and blaze new trails for artists to distribute their work and access new methods of selling their work. Galleries will always be there, but with so much competition for space the online market is becoming more attractive to young talent. High quality artwork is now just a click away.
Chris Riddell is a freelancer writer in Toronto. He has previously written on public art's role in Toronto's condo boom. 
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