Inspiring Businesses: Bluethumb

Bluethumb is Australia’s largest art marketplace, connecting collectors, art lovers and interior designers with an unprecedented community of emerging and established local artists. Buy original paintings, drawings and limited edition prints direct from artists’ studios using our award-winning website and app, beautifully designed and curated by the Bluethumb team to help you find art you love.

I got the opportunity to ask co-founder and managing director Edward Hartley a few questions on Bluethumb's journey and success...

1. What inspired the journey of Bluethumb?

Our journey with bluethumb began at the very start of 2012, when we saw that art world was ripe for disruption. Or put more eloquently, we saw a need for artists to be able to sell their art (as distribution channels are very limited, galleries exclusive and in decline) and build a sustainable income and for everyday Australians who appreciated art to have access to quality, original art at normal prices.

I grew up in an artistic household, my father used to paint after work and many of his friends were artists from his early days in the circus. Having said that I’m not an arts professional – the founders and directors of bluethumb come from technology and business backgrounds and it’s this mindset/skill set, particularly of technology that is critical to what we do.    

2. What difficulties do you come across selling art online? (logistics, copyright, postage, etc)

We had to disrupt and innovate the whole art buying system. When you’re the leaders you need to solve a vast number of problems, shift perceptions, develop new technology, build an entire marketplace with limited resources. It took years of hard work before we were an overnight success. The hard work is now really paying off.

3. How long did it take to get Bluethumb from an idea to an online business?

In 2012 we didn’t want artists to have to wait until they were in a gallery to start selling art and so Bluethumb was born. We built from a site that had some artist, but was selling nothing. Today we are the leading online art marketplace in Australia. In 2020 we intend on being the world’s number one destination for art online.

4. What has been the biggest moment of success or milestone for Bluethumb so far?

There have been many really important milestones and it’s just too hard to choose one: from the first painting sale (which proved you could sell art online), to our iOS app launch (built on a shoestring budget but immediately featured in the app store as one of 2013’s best apps) to securing external investment from e-commerce heavyweights Jeremy Same & Adam Schwab, founders of LuxGroup.  More important than the single moments is the consistent growth of our talented artist base and loyal art buyers that each day proves this is the future of the art industry.

5. Do you think the future of art galleries will slowly decline as looking and buying art online becomes more popular?

Online galleries are growing and traditional galleries are in decline. The model needs to be turned on its head where online is the major source of art sales supporting a gallery. Offline galleries have been coming from the wrong direction and are slow to evolve. Online sales will win in the end as they already have for other retail industries.

Online galleries and marketplaces are the future of the art market and sales are growing rapidly. Buyers are becoming comfortable and realise the huge benefits of buying directly from the artist in a fair and open system. There’s this much greater level of service and integrity in a marketplace connecting artists and buyers than the opaque gallery system. We are now more trustworthy. Dealers make art less accessible and their spaces an exclusive members only club, so artists and buyers have been getting a bad deal with inflated prices and the majority of art locked out of the market.