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After leaving a job in Australia’s arts sector and returning home to New Zealand, I relied on social media and the internet to keep me connected to the world of independent artists, curators and new gallery spaces springing up in Australia’s cities.
Frustrated by seeing all the amazing art exhibitions being promoted on Instagram and design blogs, but being unable to experience them in person or to collect the pieces I fell in love with, I looked to see how my problem could be solved without buying a plane ticket to Australia (or London, New York, or Berlin) every month.
When I started researching online, I was astounded to discover there were no platforms that would allow people, like me, to experience the exhibitions of the artists and curators they admire, in an online exhibition format.
While there are a handful of online exhibition software solutions out there for artists and curators, they are expensive, designed only for galleries, and often outdated with clunky slow virtual exhibition experiences which don’t do the artworks justice or make it easy to purchase.
What I did find was a plethora of art e-commerce and auction websites from high-end to low-end, but none of them showcased art as part of a holistic exhibition experience. Instead most of these websites were defined by a terrible user experience and made buying original art seem like you were buying a cheap pair of socks.
But, don’t get me wrong, there are some beautifully designed art sales websites out there. However they are focused on promoting their own stable of established artists and big name gallery networks, rather than offering an easily accessible platform to all artists and curators looking to exhibit and sell their art online, no matter what their status or personal network.
By now, not only had I failed to find a solution to my problem, but I had also uncovered a real gap in the market. As we started discussing how a solution could work and the practicalities of an online exhibition platform (luckily my husband is a wiz at developing mobile app and web platforms and was up for a challenge), I realised my idea for The Exhibit solved a lot more than just my need to “visit” the exhibitions I couldn’t get to in person.
A truly open online exhibition platform could shake up the current exhibition model, reduce the cost of exhibiting in a world where artists are increasingly struggling for exhibition funding opportunities (and governments are always looking first to the arts for budget savings), make it accessible for art collectors to view exhibitions and purchase artworks regardless of where they are located, give artists and curators a global platform which they can easily leverage with social media, create new ways of collaborating online, provide artists with an alternative to the traditional gallery representation model, and much more.
Add to this that the online art market is growing 25% year on year and buyers are becoming increasingly more confident about making artwork purchases online and I started to think we might really be onto something. So, we formulated our ideas into a business plan and product development roadmap and from that The Exhibit has come to life.