Just Launched & Live: Bluethumb Art Galleries
An Exciting New Venture
We’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes – and taken a leap of faith – to bring you one of our biggest challenges yet: Bluethumb Art Galleries. After a year of vigorous testing and trials, we’re now sure our gallery pages, officially launched today, will continue our mission to help artists get their art out of storage and on walls where it’s loved.
I have decided that these must go out into the world rather than back into my cupboard. Check it out at… https://t.co/BOMmvdh47B
— Anne van Alkemade (@Munnaminx) May 20, 2017
Although Bluethumb was started over 5 years ago to disrupt the traditional gallery system, giving all artists a platform to make a living, we’re big believers in being inclusive and creating a sustainable art economy throughout the entire industry. Many artists, especially remote Indigenous artists, rely on the galleries and art centres that represent them. What’s more, galleries are recognising they need an online presence but most don’t have the resources to build and maintain it.
The Times They Are a-Changin’
“Attitudes of gallerists have steadily shifted,” says Bluethumb co-founder and managing director Ed Hartley. “Now we see them embracing the concept of working with us. These early adopters who master the power of online branding will rise to the top.”
By partnering with Bluethumb, galleries get all the advantages of our award-winning and heavily trafficked platform. With their own specially designed profile page and dashboard, galleries can reach thousands of new collectors, promote upcoming exhibitions and events, centralise operations, measure success with our analytics tools and have the full support of our marketing, sales and tech teams. They’ll be part of the Bluethumb family and no longer on their own online.
From Little Things Big Things Grow
The gallery feature was born from another important mission. “For a long time I have felt Indigenous art and culture is massively under appreciated,” explains Ed. “When I left Darwin back in 2007 and drove home to Adelaide, I stopped in at an art centre just north of Alice Springs. I was immediately drawn to an incredible didgeridoo. Naturally it was the most expensive in the shop, but all it cost was around $750. That was a factor of their remoteness and lack of connection to collectors. I felt its true value should be 10 times that. I remember Dad telling me the key to business is distribution.
“Today we are building this incredibly powerful network of collectors online. Undoubtedly this will be the biggest shift in art sales in our lifetime. And that didgeridoo is probably my most prized possession at home. It was clearly not made to be sold, and was used around campfires for many years first but for whatever reason the creator decided to sell it. I wish I had the story of the artist and dot painting on it but sadly that was lost in the transaction and I deeply regret not having a record of this. If I’d been able to buy through a site like Bluethumb, well the story is not just embodied in the artwork, but with the new custodian and so it is carried forward.
“The leap to translating this to an actual commercial program was aided by reading a great report called The Economy of Place. A Place in the Economy. This cemented my view that we could add significant value to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and build a sustainable marketplace. Putting it into practice and executing is always the hard part though. That role was give to Freddy, our PR and comms manager, so last year he attended Revealed, an annual showcase of leading Western Australian Indigenous art centres in Fremantle. No one had yet heard of us but through hard work, and slowly building rapport with Indigenous art centres, half a dozen agreed to trial Bluethumb.
“The results were phenomenal. Despite not having yet built a dedicated platform for art centres and galleries, they all made sales in the first fortnight. One year later Bluethumb was the talk of Revealed and the feedback has been humbling. We are determined to continue to improve the technology and on ground support for art centres and galleries. It will take significant investment to build it up to where it needs to be, but I strongly believe in it’s long term value. I think we can build the world’s largest and most significant collection of Indigenous art, in one accessible place.”
How Remote Art Centres are already Benefitting
Papulankutja Artists in Blackstone was the first to sign up. At the time we hadn’t developed the new gallery platform, so instead had to sign up each artist separately and looked after the accounts on Papulankutja’s behalf. It was actually this that inspired the centralised gallery platform. We quickly realised managing multiple accounts was too much for already time poor art centre managers. Despite the slightly clunky system, we sold 2 paintings by two different artists on the first day of listing. Papulankutja’s artists have gone on to sell steadily during a difficult time for them due to a high turnover of staff. An even more exciting success was when their senior artist Jimmy Donegan was named the runner up of our inaugural Bluethumb Art Prize in January, taking home the $1000 cash prize.
Injalak Arts in Gunbalanya, west Arnhem Land, have sold the most during the trial, selling nearly every week since joining just before Christmas. What’s particularly satisfying for us with Injalak’s success is their sales during the wet season when the art centre is closed because of flooding.
“We have some amazing indigenous artists working with us and it is great that we can help get their art out there and appreciated by more people in the off season,” says Lauren Hicks, Arts and Culture Officer at Injalak Arts.
“Bluethumb is a great way to facilitate that because we can not only list the artwork for people to see, but we also have the capacity to sell work. This wet season and over the Christmas break, which is a time of year sales are hard for us due to the roads being closed, we had steady sales on Bluethumb.”
This highlights the opportunity we have to help boost the economies of remote communities. Most art centres are extraordinarily remote, often at least a day’s drive to the nearest town with permits required to visit, so they don’t get any foot traffic. All the art centres that have joined so far have sold within the first fortnight of listing, which is a fantastic result. Now we’re going live with the gallery platform and each art centre has their own profile page to showcase their artists, culture and upcoming events, we’re confident the successes will keep coming.
Bluethumb Art Galleries in the News
- The Guardian – Ethical art: how online entrepreneurs are selling Indigenous artists to the world
- Financial Review – Bluethumb art marketplace boosting indigenous communities
- Business Insider – 5 things you need to know in Australian tech today
- Smart Company – Bluethumb raises $1 million to be the “number one destination for Indigenous art”
- Anthill – Online art marketplace Bluethumb has raised $1 million to help Indigenous artists
- Startup Daily – Art marketplace Bluethumb raises $1 million to build out Indigenous Art Centre program