“Think of it as digital art collection where you can keep all the art you like and discover new art through each other”
--- Curiator co-founder Moenen Erbuer
Curiator encourages users to discover, collect and share art. Launched in early 2014, the app is an extension of the Curiator online platform, a social media website with an emphasis on visual art which claims to be the world’s largest online collaborative art museum. Many similar products targeting the visual art industry have been introduced after Pinterest’s initial success in 2012. Although Curiator does not have superior functionalities compared with its competitors, it hopes to attract more users through its unique design, interactivity, and algorithms.
Users create their own online art collections by either importing images to the platform, or selecting artworks from other users’ existing online collections. After storing artworks, users have the option to categorize works into different groups based on personal preferences. Users only need to click the artwork and drag it to the desired collection folders. Embedded algorithms allow the app to recommend similar artworks after making some initial selections. Moreover, the app builds on the website’s functionality by allowing users to add art to their digital collections through their camera phones on the go.
Curiator can automatically recognize artworks users take pictures of, through image and color matching engines powered by TinEye. If the tool cannot find any matching works, users can take pictures of the artwork’s label and the app will analyze and transcribe the text. Users are also able to report images that do not belong, or which are unacceptably low resolution. This report system utilizes the power of online community to ensure all artworks saved in its cloud infrastructure are high quality and contain accurate information.
Curiator’s design is reminiscent of Pinterest, with its Masonry layout and dynamic grid. Targeting both art professionals and enthusiasts, it is especially useful at museums, galleries and art fairs. The app also provides “share” function, which allows users to share their favorite art on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Curiator’s target audience is visual art professionals. However, still at its early stage of development, the company hasn’t attracted much attention from the visual art industry. A brief search in “users” category shows no official accounts of major visual art museums, galleries or renowned artists. In addition, its language limitation (English only) has restricted itself from attracting international users. The app showed rapid user growth after its initial launch, but news around the app and its online platform have stalled since. The inability to delete one’s account has drew much criticism from users and app review websites. It appears this particular venture may have reached its plateau.
The concept behind Curiator’s platform and app is essentially Pinterest with an exclusive focus on visual arts. Without groundbreaking features and functions, it is unlikely that Curiator will escape Pinterest’s shadow, let alone attract new users. Furthermore, competing platform ArtStack has already actualized a similar idea back in 2012.
Build on Pinterest’s explosion of success in 2012, ArtStack offers a Pinterest-like experience for artists and visual arts enthusiasts. Two years ahead of Curiator, ArtStack not only has more active users and language options (Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English and Spanish), but its online platform and app are arguably superior.
ArtStack’s success was largely due to endorsements from international artists like John Beattie, Michel Cojan and Charles Philip Brooks. However, the road to success seems to be much more difficult for Curiator. One cannot help but to compare Curiator’s lack of success with the general sentiment towards derivative works in the visual arts industry. As one blogger commented “Seems like it’s just a copy of ArtStack….but it only has a fraction of the art and none of the interesting people to follow”
Nevertheless, the future of Curiator is still to be determined. In his presentation from TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013, Moenen Erbuer, co-founder of Curiator clearly indicated the venture’s future is in exploring opportunities in visual art virtual commerce. However this market too has been widely explored by traditional auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and up-and-coming online auction houses like liveauctioneer.com.
Without originality, sufficient loyal users, offline reputation, and technology superiority, it is difficult to tell how Curiator can stand out from similar products and create its own success. After all, whether online or offline, only a small portion of those who try to break into the for profit arts industry achieve notable successes.