This Singapore Art Gallery Uses AR to Get Clients Hooked

Addicted Art Gallery allows art aficionados to try before they buy

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 09 Jan 2018

This Singapore Art Gallery Uses AR to Get Clients Hooked

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Buying art can be an intimidating experience, especially for those looking to own their first piece.

Singapore-based Addicted Art Gallery is making the process a little easier by using augmented reality to allow art aficionados to get a taste of how a piece would look like on their wall. They simply download the Addicted Art Gallery app on their mobile device and create a free account. They will then have to print out a marker and stick it on the wall where they want to see the piece. This will ensure that the tablet focuses correctly and that the art is shown in the correct size.

Once clients visit the Addicted Art Gallery site — where the gallery’s current inventory is featured — they can choose among three categories of art: contemporary, pop and urban, and vintage posters. When they see a piece they like, they click on the “add to app” button, so when they open the app they can see these art pieces pop up on their wall.

The company, founded in 2015, began with an addiction. Founder Blair Thomson — who spent over two decades in corporate investment banking — and his wife Elena had been travelling all over the world and collecting art for about 16 years. They started their collection in the late 1990’s with a piece they bought from a small gallery just outside Sydney.

Instead of buying the typical tourist souvenirs from places they've lived in or visited, the couple decided to explore the local art scene and have been scouring the art market ever since.

Towards the latter part of his 23-year stint in finance, Thomson admits he became disillusioned with the whole industry because of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. And since he and his wife had always talked about getting away from investment banking, they decided to take their collector experience and turn it into a business.  

“We wanted to take a different approach to how we actually ran the gallery, how we looked at the promotion of the gallery,” Thomson says.

“If you look at what technology or social media has done, it has really changed the behavior of collectors or how people buying art go about that process,” he adds.

He says having a physical gallery is becoming less and less important. In Singapore, Thomson observes, people don’t walk into art galleries anymore.

Worldwide, the online art market is growing, albeit at a much slower pace than, say, fashion e-commerce. In 2016, global online sales of art and collectibles were estimated at $3.75 billion, an increase of 15% over 2015, according to the annual Online Art Trade Report. Some art buyers, however, remain hesitant about purchasing art in the digital space.   

For Thomson, “When I look at the art industry, I think the whole online scenario is a sleeping giant that’s still waking up. I think, as technology continues to get better and better…online is where you need to be.”

Most people have grown accustomed to migrating activities they used to do offline to online. Hence for Thomson, “It doesn’t make sense to maintain a separate physical space for the gallery. We’d rather do something different.”

In the two-years they’ve been in business, Thomson learned they can’t just rely on the Singapore collector base to sustain them. They had to figure out how to tap collectors in Europe, U.S., and other parts of Asia. And to do just that became their biggest challenge.

He says the focus of local collectors in Singapore is around Southeast Asian contemporary art; to move into international markets, Addicted Art Gallery has to maintain other pieces in their portfolio, including urban and street art. Bringing the gallery experience to an international audience is where their AR technology, developed in partnership with a company called Basis Tech Consulting, comes in.

So whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned art collector, Thomson suggests, “[A]lways start with what you love.”