A New Way to Collect Art

Henry Blundell, founder and CEO of MasterArt. Photograph: Harry Heuts
Henry Blundell, founder and CEO of MasterArt. Photograph: Harry Heuts

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 30, 2014

It makes sense for art buyers to find out everything they possibly can before they buy a work and add to their collection. MasterArt has developed a number of applications that enable collectors to identify top quality, learn more about art and remain abreast of trends in the art market.MasterArt’s innovations include an online database of art, antiques and design available from over three hundred reputableinternational dealers, a digital library of art catalogues and virtual tours of the most important fairs.The organization provides a quality label for art and brings together collectors, traders and art experts. 

Henry Blundell founded MasterArt in Brussels in 2012. His ArtSolution company developed software applications and websites for the art world and Blundell worked closely with the organizers of major art fairs such as TEFAF Maastricht, the Paris Biennale and Masterpiece in London. He realized that collectors had a need for a quality mark for top art galleries. ‘Many reputable auctioneers had good online information about their offerings, but the rest of the market was lagging behind. There was no international overview, particularly for art at the highest level. You had to search each and every gallery website in order to find a particular work or artist,’ he explains. MasterArt set up a network of the best art dealers and created a single online database with details of thousands of objects.

A Label for Top Quality

The three hundred selected MasterArt dealers come from twenty countries and are represented at important international art fairs, where their works are subjected to rigorous vetting. ‘MasterArt.com gives access to more than 17,000 artworks, all of the finest quality,’ continues Blundell. ‘Whether you are looking for Rodin, Cartier or Charlotte Perriand, our database lets you search by keyword, category, artist or gallery.’ Don Carlos Montero de Alba from Madrid collects antique weapons. ‘MasterArt enables me to monitor my special field and locate the countries where the objects I’m looking for can be found. The selection is made for me, and I know who I’m doing business with,’ he says.

If you are interested, you can also register free of charge for email alerts. You automatically receive notification based on the search terms you have specified when new objects come on to the market. The online virtual tours of art fairs let art lovers navigate to their favourite stands and see artworks again, or visit a fair they missed. MasterArt.com is of great value to established collectors as well as people who are just getting started. The website has MasterArt Storybook, an art world blog by journalist David Moss, and a diary of exhibitions in galleries you will not want to miss.

There are two sides to the coin. The MasterArt site successfully attracts over 30,000 unique visitors a month. More than half visit a gallery, museum or art fair every month, and a quarter do so every week. Eighteen percent of MasterArt.com users earn over one million US dollars a year and fifty percent buy art on average about four times a year. Dealers establish new contacts through MasterArt, and sometimes this leads to sales. Blundell does not believe that the internet will take over the role of exhibitions and fairs. ‘The internet is not competition for the art trade as we know it. It’s simply a way to communicate. Our database lets you see where a work of art is, but after that it’s business as usual. This is why we deliberately don’t provide e-commerce services.’ He advises interested art buyers to go and see an artwork for themselves. ‘Contact the dealer and make sure you get properly briefed. You have to be confident that this is the work you’ve chosen.’

Digital Library

MasterArt participates in leading international art fairs – TEFAF Maastricht, BRAFA in Brussels, Fine Art Asia Hong Kong, Masterpiece London, Cologne Fine Art and PAN Amsterdam. Visitors to the opening days of these and other fairs receive a copy of the MasterArt Directory of the World’s Leading Art and Antique Dealers. It contains an overview of the most important art and antique dealers as well as a calendar of events.

Blundell and his team find out about the news and views of international collectors and gallery owners and managers at these fairs. ‘That’s how the idea for the MasterArt Catalogues iPad app came about. It’s a digital library with over a hundred and fifty gallery publications that are normally reserved exclusively for art dealers’ customers. This free app lets all art lovers leaf through the publications and zoom in on works of art from classical antiquity to today,’ comments Blundell. The catalogues are on MasterArt.com too. They are also a valuable source for academics, not least because of the many research hours that went into them.

MasterArt Society

MasterArt brings together people with a passion for art and organizes exclusive events in cooperation with its partners. ‘People are looking for a little relaxation, inspiration and intellectual enrichment. We’re reviving the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century tradition of literary salons with intimate dinners, digital presentations and debates about art,’ explains Blundell. ‘This gives collectors, art experts, academics, dealers and curators the opportunity to meet in an informal atmosphere, talk about art and share knowledge.’ The first receptions were held in 2013 at stylish locations in Paris and St Petersburg. MasterArt dinners, presentations and debates are scheduled in Brussels, Washington, London, Madrid, New York, Cologne and Zurich in 2014.

Plans for the Future
The seventeen members of the MasterArt team are hard at work on expanding the existing dealer network. Their efforts are being supported by an advisory committee of twelve art experts, each a specialist in a different collecting field. ‘By the time we’ve added new contacts in Latin America and Asia and the remaining western galleries, I expect we’ll have some five hundred MasterArt members worldwide. And we’re not making any concessions on quality, beauty and authenticity,’ says Blundell. ‘Currently we’re working closely with international trade fair organizers and suppliers of luxury goods and services. We’re developing a comprehensive package for art collectors – a new way to collect art that’s in step with the times,’ he concludes.

Watch the latest video on MasterArt at http://youtu.be/Hwljz3rkdCM.

Go to http://www.masterart.com for more information on the participating dealers, the art works and art market news. You can also follow MasterArt on Twitter @MasterArtdotcom and Facebook.