Arthena is a New York based startup that has both art collectors and art lovers divided. The company is essentially a crowdfunding platform for people seeking to collect art. It’s an investment opportunity for art collectors, using multiple data points of the artwork, such as medium, style, and size, to determine the investment value of each piece. The aim of the company is to make art collecting a more accessible enterprise– ultimately benefiting both artists and art collectors in the long run. However, the very nature of Arthena has the art community dissecting deeper questions about the current art market and the values of art itself.
Is Arthena the Future of the Art Market, or Stuck in the Past?
Arthena seems to arrive at a specific intersection of where art collecting has been and where it’s going. More and more traditional galleries and auction houses are closing, which would suggest a decline in traditional fine art collecting– which is Arthena’s main service. However, alternative and progressive ways of collecting art is on the rise. Blockchain technology has vastly transformed the world of art collecting. Sites like DADA has morphed both social media and crypto-collecting into one visual-arts based website. It allows users to interact through drawings, while also giving art dilettantes an opportunity to collect art using cryptocurrency in place of the traditional, centralized art market, which is typically extremely inaccessible and reserved solely for art experts.
While Arthena is seeking to make art collecting a more affordable hobby, it still limits itself in that it works with only fine art. The minimum investment is $5,000, and while that may seem like a cheap investment in the world of art collecting, you are lacking the most enticing aspect of art collection– the art piece itself. And though you may get the bragging rights of owning (part of) and exclusive, top-tier work of fine art, it’s not actually in your possession. And while Arthena’s progressive and unique approach to art collection may be a peek into the future of the art market, it begs the question of whether this is the future we want.
What Does Arthena Say About the Nature of Modern Art?
While Arthena claims that its mission will ultimately help artists by making art collecting more accessible, it may be only helping a small population of artists who have already “made it” in the art world. We are approaching an age of more and more online, artist-to-consumer art sales, which means that the art market will be less involved with status of the artist and more attracted to the artist’s marketing techniques, customer service skills, and, of course, the work of art itself. Arthena, however, seems to still be focused on the traditional aspects of art collecting– the reputation of the artist, the critical narrative surrounding the piece, and the “objective” value of the piece. By removing the gratification of owning the work of art itself, and therefore decentralizing the art from art collecting, Arthena in fact heightens these arbitrary elements of the artwork.
And, essentially, while Arthena’s objective is attempting art-empowerment, their method is fundamentally anti-art. How can one objectively determine the value of a work of art, when the nature of art is inherently subjective? Art is about personal expression, and the beauty of art is when someone’s expression resonates with another person. Art is something that connects individuals at their very core, and visual art as a medium is something that uses the physical interaction of aesthetic to convey that truth and establish that connection. When that physical interaction is eliminated, then what becomes the point of art collection? What becomes the point of art itself?
The scope of the modern art market is changing rapidly, and with the introduction of social media to art collection, the future could include more artist to consumer relationships. It could mean more artists sharing their art with more people– making art collection an accessible hobby and creating more work opportunities for practicing artists. While fine art will always have a place in the art market, we should not be making art collecting centered on status and reputation. We should instead place the focus back on the simple physical beauty and emotional significance that is ingrained in the nature of art.