#Asia You can now commission works of art using WeChat


Image by Sheng Ho

Image by Sheng Ho

China has the fastest-growing contemporary art market in the world, but speed isn’t everything. The market has grown so quickly that it has fractured – with thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars spent at galleries on one end, and mass-produced Taobao art products on the other.

Artable is a startup that’s attempting to bridge that divide. Started by an artist-turned-entrepreneur, the company provides a crowdfunding and ecommerce platform for art projects, and relies on WeChat to tap into the booming Chinese appetite for creative goods.

Focus on the artist

“There are lots of ecommerce markets selling art. But they don’t focus on people,” says Zoe Zhang, Artable CEO. Instead of being a Taobao-like marketplace for prints and fine art-inspired goods, Artable aims to put the artist front and center.

Users can follow artists and request commissioned work or custom projects. Artable also functions as a crowdfunding platform, where artists can advertise potential projects and seek support from the Artable audience.

Screenshot of Artable.cn

Screenshot of Artable.cn

“More and more Chinese are looking for culture, and for unique art and design,” says Zoe. She herself is a graduate of the prestigious China Academy of Arts and the Eindhoven University of Technology, in the Netherlands.

Zoe has worked as an artist on public art projects, and also as a museum curator. In her work, she noticed that, while artists were abundant and the demand for art projects was large, broken infrastructure was making things messy.

“Every year there are 100 new museums opening in China. And many shopping malls are looking for creative content too,” she says. “But at the same time, there aren’t enough channels for getting information [between artists and buyers].”

Developing in China, with an eye on the world

Artable is aiming squarely for China’s rising middle/upper-middle class for its consumer base, and that means one thing: WeChat.

Artable CEO Zoe Zhang

Artable CEO Zoe Zhang

“WeChat is our main platform,” says Zoe. The company has a website, but it is putting the lion’s share of its effort into mobile, specifically WeChat.

In most countries, it could sound bizarre to run an art crowdfunding platform within a chat app. But in China, WeChat has become a development platform in itself, and one that ensures companies don’t have to develop separate apps for iPhone, Android, and Windows.

Users can make purchases and crowdfunding contributions through WeChat wallet, with Artable charging a commission with each sale.

Artable was one of the companies to demo at Shanghai’s Chinaccelerator in November. The startup is currently aiming to raise US$500,000 to US$1 million in pre-series A funding.

With that, Artable would be able to take on the next stage of its development – bringing in artists and designers from abroad.

“We will build up a big community of the world’s best artists and designers,” says Zoe. “Artists are everywhere, and customers are too. Culture is universal.”

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