‘How will this look on my wall?’ There’s an app for that
July 16, 2015
Two years ago at the National Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art in Chicago, Cari Sacks ran into a common problem for collectors. That problem bred a solution, in the new Curate app.
At the massive annual fall fair on Navy Pier, Sacks — a part-time Aspenite based in Chicago — saw a piece she wanted to buy, but wasn't sure if it would fit on the wall in her Highland Park home where she envisioned it. She called her sister, a photographer, and asked her to Photoshop a digital picture of the work into a photo of the wall. But that process would take too long in the high-paced retail atmosphere of an art fair. She walked away without the painting but with the germ of the concept for Curate, a smartphone and tablet app that allows collectors to input room dimensions and virtually place art on their walls.
"I kept thinking, 'There should be a way to do this. There should be an app for this,'" Sacks told me recently on the patio at Victoria's Espresso. "There are so many art fairs now, this must be a common problem. … I've made a lot of mistakes, and it's a drag. You eyeball it and you're in the moment and you say 'I'll make it work.' Then you get it home and you can't."
Sacks brought the idea to Chicago area digital developers and, after a year of research and beta testing, Curate launched in September. The free app allows users to virtually place art in their homes without leaving a gallery or a booth at fairs like the Downtown Aspen Art Festival (July 25 and 26) and ArtAspen (Aug. 13 to 16) or at the big upcoming auction events at the Aspen Art Museum (July 31) and Anderson Ranch (Aug. 1).
"If you take pictures of your walls before you come to an art show, this streamlines the entire experience for the patron and the seller," Sacks says.
The result is an intuitive application (I tested it out to hang a postcard alongside the haphazardly hung art and album covers on my office wall). It begins with a simple tutorial video. You're asked to select favorite art styles. Then you add rooms, photos of walls and plug-in dimensions. After that, you can select artwork from galleries across the U.S. that have their inventories on the app, or you can photograph a piece with its dimensions (rectangle or oval only). Using a little virtual paintbrush, you can cover up whatever is currently on the wall.
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From there, with a tap of your finger, you can virtually hang the artwork and decide where to put it.
"I wanted it to be really intuitive," Sacks says. "I wanted it to be something that would really help people. What's great about it is that the scale is right."
It's been downloaded by 6,000 people so far. One local shop – Casterline Goodman Gallery – currently has its inventory on Curate. Sacks' revenue stream for the app is coming from the galleries, who pay to have their collections on the app (after a free three-month trial).
The highest of high-end art buyers, for the most part, have their own art consultants who will know what will work and where in a client's home. Curate is made for collectors who don't have that luxury (and who, age-wise, tend to be more likely app users anyway).
"The people who use this are the ones that are shopping at galleries and art fairs, making mid-level to entry-level purchases, who don't want to make mistakes," says Sacks, "who don't want to bring something home and say, 'Oh my God it doesn't fit on my wall, now I need to sell it.'"
When Curate was ready to go live, Sacks' development team told her that they could tweak the algorithm to make it work for sculpture and three-dimensional objects, too. That's the next step for the app. If that works, it could be a game-changer, not only for collecting art, but for arranging furniture, allowing users to virtually situate couches and beds and tables without the legwork.
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