Art in Res (YC W20) – Buy art directly from artists

Hi HN,

I’m John Friel, cofounder of Art in Res ( Art in Res is an online marketplace where painters sell their art directly to buyers, instead of needing to work with an art gallery.

I studied art and moved to New York in 2008 dreaming of making it as an artist. It wasn’t easy. I lived in a maybe-legal warehouse space that doubled as a poorly-ventilated art studio. My first day job was stocking shelves at Trader Joe’s, which covered my rent and groceries but, at New York prices, not much else.

My best friend in NYC had a side hustle making artist websites by hacking them out on top of WordPress. He was great at it. Through that side-hustle, he got approached to make an online store for a small business. Shopify wasn’t wasn’t widely known back then and he needed help. So he proposed to me: “Hey John, I know you have a nerdy side. Do you think you could learn to program and we could make the website together?” I told him “No way! That’s crazy! It would take me years to learn to program!” But he said “Look, there’s this new thing called Ruby on Rails. At least just Google that before you say ‘no’”. So I did a Rails tutorial and thought “Hmm, maybe I _could_ do this.” We accepted the gig and I’ve been a happy coder ever since. (We did _not_ ship the site on time.)

I’m all in on coding now, but most of my artist friends are still making art, and still working day jobs. Their studios are full of amazing paintings that barely anyone gets to see. And for every one of my friends there are a thousand other artists out there, cranking out amazing work and not selling it because they don’t have galleries selling it for them.

A couple years ago, my cofounder John (we’re both named John) told me that he had bought a painting from an artist he’d met. He couldn’t believe how great the paintings were, how cool the artist was, how the artists’ studio was this cool warehouse space that was overflowing with unsold paintings. He knew me as a programmer – but wasn’t I a painter before that? He had the idea that we could put our experiences together and make a website where people could buy art from all the amazing but not-famous artists around them.

We started Art in Res as a nights-and-weekends project. We found lots of people who liked the idea of buying art – but we also realized that most people who aren’t hardcore art collectors think that paying over $100 for a painting is hard to swallow. The thing is though, that paintings are made by hand, often painstakingly over long periods of time, and so they don’t benefit from the economics of scale that create the prices that modern consumers expect.

We resolve that by having our buyers purchase art on _installment plans_, where each payment results in a payment to the artist. In normal circumstances, revenue for artists tends to be spiky and unpredictable. Once an artist on Art in Res gets a couple installment plans going, they have a nice, predictable revenue stream. And a buyer who is purchasing this way gets to live with a unique, hand-made painting for ~$30-60 per month. It works really well for both parties.

We’re working on Art in Res full-time now and our team has grown to 5 people (all creatives in some capacity or another.) We’re John, Dan, Noni, Emily and me. We think art should be affordable and artists should get paid. There’s so much amazing art out there, collecting dust in studios. It deserves to find loving homes. <3

Thanks so much, and we can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

PS - I’ve been lurking HN for close to a decade and this is thrilling for me!

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andrey azimov by Andrey Azimov