Buying art can be an incredibly intimidating experience for the first-time collector. To get the price of an artwork in a gallery, you usually need to ask for it, but you might not have any idea whether it’s a good price or not.
Magnus Resch, an entrepreneur and academic, wants to empower you to start your art collection. The answer, as it so often is these days, is with an app.
Here’s how it works:
- Open the app, named after its founder, Magnus.Take a picture of any flat artwork. The technology does not work with sculptures, unfortunately.Information about the work will automatically populate the screen, including the artist, when it was created, the materials used, where the art has been exhibited before and how much it cost then, and, most importantly, the price of the work in the gallery now.
“It’s the Shazam for the art world,” Resch told Business Insider, referencing the music app that can identify any song by using a smartphone’s built-in microphone. Magnus uses image recognition software made by wine-recognition app Vivino to do this for art instead of sound.
The app works quickly, with a pleasing “Voila” when it identifies an artwork from its database. When we visited a series of galleries in the art-rich Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea, Magnus was able to identify nearly all of the artwork we saw.
This kind of technology will completely change the way business is done in the art market, Resch said, empowering those who might be interested in buying art but don’t know where to start.
“What always distracted me in the art market is the lack of transparency,” Resch said. “I still feel intimidated when I walk in a gallery. Asking for the price – it’s kind of a strange feeling.”
Magnus puts all of the necessary information in the palm of your hand.
What makes this app different from previous attempts at art databases and similar apps is that Magnus also includes the primary art market – meaning those local galleries where buying a piece of art can seem like a nebulous process. The app does this by crowdsourcing information from users, kind of like an art-themed Quora, and populating it in the app’s database. The information must be verified by multiple users and reviewed by the app’s full-time staff of three.
There are currently 8 million pieces of artwork in Magnus’ database, 12% of which are from the primary art market. The rest come from publicly listed auctions.
Resch says his intention isn’t to replace galleries, but to drag them into the 21st century.
“If you want to buy an artwork, you have to pay a price. Everybody likes to make money in the art world, but no one wants to talk about it,” Resch said. “Let’s just talk about money. There’s nothing wrong about it.”
Resch believes that this transparency will attract new potential buyers into the art market and help galleries acquire new business.
“I’m a big advocate of galleries,” Resch said. “30% of all galleries are loss-making. I want to support them.”
Resch holds a PhD in economics, and studied at both Harvard University and the London School of Economics. He wrote a book, called Management of Art Galleries, that includes a survey of galleries and their business practices, and notes some remedies to help them as they head into today’s evolving economic climate.
A new update for the app also adds a gallery map and “editor’s picks” for shows going on in your area now, to further help those who might be new to the art world.
Magnus is a free app, nearly completely funded by Resch’s previous entrepreneurial endeavors and his book sales. He said he hopes to add a paid premium level at some point, which would have additional features.
The app currently works in London and Berlin, where it expanded after launching in New York. Resch said he hopes to add 40 new cities around the world by the end of the summer.
It’s currently only available on iOS, but an Android version is coming soon, according to the app’s website.