10 Years of Bluethumb: Our Milestone Moments

Amidst the decade of progress that was the 2010s was the launch of Bluethumb – now the largest Australian online art gallery. A small number of artists that now make the many thousands on Bluethumb have been with us from the very beginning, as have the company’s Co-Founders, Ed and George Hartley. With our 10 year anniversary falling at the beginning of 2022, it feels only fitting to celebrate some of the most special of milestones within Bluethumb’s history!

Brothers and Bluethumb Co-Founders, George and Ed Hartley.

“There are moments, many moments over the last 10 years,” Ed says on reflection. “Sometimes it was casual interactions with people more than milestones that I remember. Some small, some momentous.”

The 2015 Raise

“The first time we got investors to back us in December 2015 was huge,” Ed Hartley explains. “That was our transition from ‘bootstrapped’ startup to proper high growth creative tech company. It was inspiring that other founders backed us with their own hard-earned money and believed we could deliver on our mission.”

“The investment helped us to rebuild the site again, hire and spend on marketing,” adds George Hartley.

In the same year, Bluethumb won the Creative3 Pitch presented by QUT Creative Enterprise Australia, which was a huge success for the company. “Winning QUT’s Creative startup of the year and heading over to Denmark to represent Australia was such an honour, and heaps of fun hanging out with CEO Anna Rooke in Copenhagen,” Ed reminisces.

The 2015 Creative³ Pitch finals, which took place in Copenhagen.

Bluethumb Art Prize 2017: The First of Many

The inaugural Bluethumb Art Prize hit Australia back in 2017 and set a benchmark for what was achievable. The reception to the prize was remarkable. “Chatting to artists at our first ever art prize, seeing how much they loved Bluethumb and saying they would actively promote us even when exhibiting at a fair hosted by competitors – that sank in,” adds Ed.

art prize exhibition

Melburnians admiring the finalists exhibition at our inaugural Bluethumb Art Prize!

Since then, the Bluethumb Art Prize has annually built on the last, making our 2021 edition the biggest and best yet. With the ceremony held virtually in November 2021, we remained flexible in response to the restrictions brought on by the pandemic. In doing so, the art prize was more accessible to a broader audience than ever before. What’s more, we launched several brand new category awards that reflect the ever-changing evolution of the arts scene, including Digital Art.

Last year this stunning trifecta of artworks by Kelilah Taylor-Ware was on display for our Winners exhibition of 2020’s Bluethumb Art Prize. Following the success of the event despite lockdowns and restrictions, 1 Denison will once again host this year’s winners exhibition.

Launching an Indigenous Arts Centre Platform

The rapid growth brought on by previous investments and events in 2017 encouraged Ed and George to develop Bluethumb further, focusing their attention on building a platform for Indigenous art centres as part of the site. “This was a choice where the long term impact of doing something good would pay dividends,” George explains. “Australian art has an unbroken 60,000 year history. Many of our most revered artists are Indigenous and in remote communities art sales are often the only source of earning income. But these communities have only been able to sell art to visitors who can make it to these remote places, through fine art galleries or at art fairs. We’re doing what we can to improve this. We’ve partnered with over a quarter of Australia’s remote Indigenous art centres who’ve listed their artists with us.”

Leading the mission to partner with remote art centres, our Head of PR & Comms Freddy Grant visited Injalak Arts in remote Arnhem Land. Behind is the renowned Injalak Hill!

Launching Our Two Bricks-and-Mortar Galleries in 2019 & 2020

October 2019 marked a big moment for Bluethumb as we celebrated the launch of our Melbourne gallery. For the first time ever, Bluethumb had acquired a physical space of our own to house exhibitions and events for our art community. Our Adelaide gallery was quick to follow suit in August 2020, and has become a hugely successful part of the company. “The Adelaide gallery is a snapshot or cross section of Bluethumb in the flesh,” says Ed. “We love seeing how people react and interact with the art before their very eyes, getting their feedback and bringing to life the ‘Home of Australian Artists.’”

Ed and Adelaide gallery manager & Art Advisory Amélia Davis in the Goodwood space.

Melbourne locals, we have some exciting news with a stunning new gallery in Richmond on the horizon. Stay tuned for more details coming very soon!

Facing a Pandemic in 2020

“In March 2020 every founder, every business owner, every CEO thought they were staring into the abyss,” Ed remembers. “Instead, we grew 50% in April, then 50% again in May – that was staggering. No-one, not a single person I spoke to, thought this would happen. This was a tipping point. We thought the previous 8 years of hard, hard work would be cut off at the knees but instead those foundations – technology, people and brand – came into their own and launched us into a scale up phase.”

Aboriginal artist Karen Lee saw her sales increase during the pandemic. Credit: The Guardian

During a time when many stores had to close their doors, we were able to continue helping more artists sell art than ever during these challenging times. In a recent article by The Guardian, an increase in Indigenous art sales was reported – coming at a crucial time for remote art centres. Writer Paul Daley noted: “When remote First Nations communities went into lockdown, most community art centres that partner with Bluethumb closed due to the absence of tourists and an incapacity to move the art listed on the website.”

As our Head of PR Freddy Grant explained in the article, the closure of remote art centres was met with the Bluethumb team adapting to facilitate their sales: “To help counter this, we offered art centres the opportunity to send consignments of artworks to our houses as we were and still are working from home.”

Beginning Bluethumb Digital in 2022

Bluethumb Digital artist Lucy Lucy and George Hartley with a couple of Lucy’s freshly released NFTs.

Bluethumb Digital launched this month and has already been well-received by artists and collectors far and wide! In a new venture that branches out from traditional forms of art, we’re helping artists and collectors crossover to the digital space. As Bluethumb has consistently done for painters, photographers, sculptors and other traditional artists, Bluethumb Digital is making collecting NFT art easier than ever. With easy-to-understand comms and simple payment methods (including credit card coming soon!) we’re demystifying the NFT scene for everyone to use.

Feeling the Love for Bluethumb throughout the Years

Without a doubt, one of the highlights for the whole Bluethumb team over the last decade has been witnessing collectors falling in love with artworks and the connections they bring, as well as seeing moonlighting creatives being able to ditch the day job and become full-time artists. Long-time Bluethumb veteran Ben Tankard and last year’s Bluethumb Art Prize Founders Award Winner Brad Holland have left their retail jobs and become highly successful artists. This story rings true for so many other artists on Bluethumb, and it is an integral part of Bluethumb’s mission.

Bluethumb Co-Founder Ed Hartley with Brad in front of the award-winning artwork, Buzz.

Each Bluethumb team member has their own personal memory of an extra-special interaction – a conversation or email with a collector or an artist – that has stayed with us.

“When I unpacked Ron Brown’s artwork and showed it to my 10 year old daughter who has cerebral palsy and rarely speaks, she said ‘I like it’,” wrote one collector in an email to the team many years ago. “Then she said ‘on my wall’. I should let you know saying two sentences is absolutely huge and she has never put two sentences together.”

“I still clearly remember getting this message years ago and it hit home just how much art can mean,” says George. “It’s nice to be part of that.”

Product Manager Sheeraz remembers the first conversations he had when people already knew about Bluethumb and he was no longer working for Australia’s best kept secret. “One of the milestone moments I can think of that made me feel Bluethumb is ‘somewhat’ established was in 2018 when I told one of my partner’s colleagues where I worked; she knew about Bluethumb already and had purchased on Bluethumb. Something similar happened that year with another friend who’s cousin was actually selling art on Bluethumb and knew me by name.”

Jen in her studio

We recently visited artist Jen Shewring’s studio. “It has taken me a long time to acknowledge myself as being a professional artist and not just feeling like a painter. And I think by going through all these stages I finally feel validated in myself and the Australian arts community. Now when I’m asked what I do for a living, I answer proudly that I’m an artist.”

What’s next on the cards for Australia’s largest online art gallery? We already have an action-packed planner for the year ahead, which is keeping the team busy but promises to even further improve the experience of collecting and selling art. “We are 10 years in, and it still feels like early days,” George says on the anniversary. “2022 is already exciting; in the next 10 years I think we can build one of the largest art companies in the world.”

Click here to explore more of our artists who’ve been there for many of the milestones in our new celebratory curation.

Kate Rogers home art studio
Art Collector’s Home: Bestselling Figurative Artist Kate Rogers


  1. Franko says:

    Welll done everyone……proud to be a part of the past few years on Bluethumb. Here is to the next 10! Cheers Franko

  2. Elle Gahan says:

    So proud to be involved Bluethumb, you have truly embraced Australian Artists. Congratulations, and look forward to exhibiting my artworks with you for the next 10 years !

  3. I joined Bluethumb in 2020 and have been overjoyed at the change it has made to my life. I paint in acrylic from life’s experiences and so my paintings are images from my life, the places I have visited, where I live, in the studio and the people I have met along the way. I have sold regularly, have had two commissions and been in four curations. To date I have had no returns. I have been inspired by the other artists’ works and have found the Bluethumb Facebook community to be warm and supportive. What a wonderful experience to date! Eileen

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