Just Launched & Live: Bluethumb Art Galleries

An Exciting New Venture

We’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes on one of our biggest challenges yet, and a leap of faith, to bring you an exciting new venture: 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 on walls where it’s loved, instead of gathering dust in storage.

 

Although Bluethumb was started over 5 years ago to disrupt the traditional gallery system and make it possible for all artists to make a living by selling directly to collectors, 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.

Bluethumb's awesome art fanatics

The Bluethumb Team

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 us, 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 clients, 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.

Tjarlirli Art sunset

A Tjarlirli Art sunset

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.

Papulankutja Artists art gallery profile

Papulankutja Artists‘ new gallery profile

“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.”

Papulankutja Artists art gallery

Papulankutja Artists gallery in Blackstone, WA

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.

Kulabbarl Billabong by Jeremiah Garlngarr from Injalak Arts

Kulabbarl Billabong by Jeremiah Garlngarr from Injalak Arts

“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.

Injalak artists screen printing

Injalak artists screen printing

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Bluethumb Art Galleries in the News

Bluethumb in the Financial Review

Bluethumb in the Financial Review

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3 Comments

  1. Kirsten says:

    You guys never fail to impress me with your liberal-thinking and progressive approach to arts marketing. So glad to be an artist on board with Bluethumb!

  2. That is a fabulous idea! Thanks for being so proactive in regards to helping us creative artists..

  3. Glenda Pitt says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!
    I totally believe in what you’re doing to raise the bar and better support Australia’s Aborigines’ Art, thereby directly to the benefit of the Artists themselves.
    I visited Injalak Artist Community 2 years ago and was gobsmacked at their wonderful art, their kindness at accepting us as we asked questions and looked around in amazement. To my envy, my friend bought a fabulous large bark painting of a speared fish, now proudly on his wall. The Kakado/Arnhem trip saturated my appetite to one day again go and visit more centres and hopefully learn, through the connection Aboriginal Artists have of their country, to apply a deeper soul to my art also.
    Thumbs up to Bluethumb:)

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