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Artsy launches iPhone app that lets users browse, buy art

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Artsy on Wednesday launched an app for the iPhone and iPod that allows users to browse — and buy — art from leading institutions around the world.

The free Artsy App, designed for iOS 7, has pooled 50,000 hi-res images of artworks, including some by Monet and Jeff Koons, from roughly 600 foundations, galleries, artists’ estates and museums — including the Guggenheim in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the British Museum.

“This is the first time such a large selection of artworks from world-renowned institutions has been made available to the public all in one place,” Carter Cleveland, founder and CEO of Artsy, told Culture Monster. “It puts the art world in your hand.”

Artsy, which launched to the public last year, is like a Spotify for the art world. The online encyclopedia of fine art allows its 150,000 registered users to page through thousands of artworks and funnels suggestions based on what users like and share.

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The Artsy app adds another feature — the option to buy with the touch of a finger.

Users can virtually visit and purchase works, which range in price from hundreds to millions of dollars, from galleries and art fairs around the world.

Pieces priced less than $10,000 can be purchased directly through the app, with Artsy taking a 1% to 6% cut. If the price tag is higher, the app connects users with the gallery to complete the sale.

“More and more galleries see the benefit of making their art accessible online to reach a wider audience,” Cleveland said. “An iPhone app is a huge part of making that happen.”

The app also connects potential buyers with advisors, some trained by Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses.

“You can find any artwork you like, and ask a specialist: 'How much does this usually sell for? Does the gallery provide framing? I like this artist, what other works or artists would I like?'" Cleveland said.

Right now, specialists will respond to users’ questions offline, but future versions of the app could allow for real-time messaging, as well as ways for museums to sell wares instead of just putting them on display.

For now, the main aim of the app is to help users navigate the often "intimidating" art world, Cleveland said. “And you can do all this with a few taps of the phone.”

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