We Have Takeoff: ARTA Raises $3 Million in Its Quest to Become the Expedia of Art Shipping

In an increasingly difficult economy, the startup says a new model for shipping will help galleries maximize resources.

Adam Fields, founder of ARTA. Courtesy ARTA

If New York City-based tech startup ARTA aims to disrupt the high-end art shipping business, today they are a little closer to their goal. The company has announced $3 million in seed funding from investors that include current client David Zwirner Gallery, Sotheby’s, several venture capital firms, and a consortium of Chinese and European investors.

The funds will help the three-year-old ARTA, which bills itself as the Kayak or Expedia of the art shipping industry, to expand internationally, beginning with a London office. The startup has hired six new employees, including heads of marketing and engineering, and is launching partnerships with inventory management site ArtBase and auction house Phillips next week. It has also taken a booth at EXPO Chicago, which previews Wednesday for VIPs.

“I’m always looking for a way that technology can make an antiquated industry more efficient,” founder and CEO Adam Fields, who formerly worked for Artspace, told artnet News. “We recognized that shipping was a huge problem both for online and offline sellers when it comes to large, fragile, expensive pieces. Galleries like David Zwirner would call us and say ‘We can’t ship this $50,000 piece via FedEx or DHL. It needs crating, it needs insurance, it needs installlation.’ That was the catalyst for how ARTA started.”

In a statement, Zwirner called ARTA “a game-changer for logistics in the art world,” and praised its “transparent model.”

Instead of waiting days to obtain and compare prices, ARTA offers a platform where anyone—whether a gallery, auction house, collector, or art adviser—can get quotes from the top 300 art shippers around the world, according to Fields.

“The sales pitch isn’t really too hard,” he said. “It’s such a huge problem for galleries. If you’re a big gallery you might have three or four or five registrars. Maybe instead of having five, you can have three. For a small gallery, you might be the sole revenue generator who is also responsible for shipping. If you’re able to plug into our platform, you can really enhance the user experience for your clients. Better, faster, cheaper is the name of the game.”

Next week, ARTA will launch an API (application program interface) with ArtBase and Phillips auction house. “So now we’re essentially allowing anyone with an inventory system, starting with ArtBase and an auction house, to effectively hit a ship button within their inventory system—which is the system they are using on a daily basis—to get quotes and manage the logistical process,” Fields said.

Ultimately, though, Fields believes ARTA will help galleries’ bottom line in an increasingly difficult economic environment. “In a world where the margins are getting lower, it’s turning more competitive and galleries are closing down consistently,” he stated. “This is utility and a platform that can really help maximize resources.”

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