Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Fol Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Follow her on Twitter, her site or Google+ or get in touch at [email protected]
It’s become a cliché to call the world a Global Village, even more so thanks to the advent of the Internet. But Art Sumo is a site which perfectly represents just how small the world has become, and how easy it can be to connect with people from all over the world. The site brings talented, undiscovered artists from across the globe straight to potential buyers, giving them the opportunity to get their work out to a wider audience.
The Art Sumo team consists of founder Naysawn Naderi, an engineer by profession currently based in Canada, Eric Bui-Quang, based in Vietnam, heading up the international search for artists, and their resident social media guru, Lindsey Engh.
Every day, Art Sumo features one painting for sale, and it could be from anywhere in the world, giving new and experienced art collectors an easy way to discover artists they would have otherwise never heard of.
Naysawn gave The Next Web a little insight into what inspired the concept and how the site has been doing so far. The site comes from a very personal place for him, he explains:
“I created Art Sumo to make it easier to discover and purchase the amazing works of art that are being produced in the small corners of the Earth. The inspiration to create the site came from picking up many paintings in my travels myself. I have always tried to be a good son and bring back a painting for my mother wherever I went. In doing so, I have met with lots of artists in the developing world who I often found to be producing work, that I considered incredible for a fraction of the cost that such work would cost in North America. Despite their quality, they often struggled to sell it locally and were not aware of an international market for their work.”
One artist’s experience in particular stands out for him in his travels:
“This point was made loud and clear when I met an artist in New Delhi, India. I purchased several of his paintings, which I found to be more intricate than anything I had ever seen. When I took them back to the US, people offered me a 10x markup for the work. Even though they were of such high quality, the artist would stockpile his work all year long so that once a year he could try to sell them at a market in New Delhi and have an opportunity to sell his work to tourists because there was no market for his work where his family lived in Kashmir.”
Seeing the gap in prices in the artwork abroad, and in the US, Naysawn saw an opportunity to do something about it. Inspired by Kiva, a site which connects people in developing countries for microfinance opportunities, Art Sumo was born.
Art Sumo has featured the work of artists from Indonesia, Ecuador, Philippines, Vietnam, Russia and more. So how do they find the artists?
“We have Art Hunters located around the world who reach out to artists, tell them about Art Sumo and see through the process of selling their work on the site. We have found that these Art Hunters are needed since many artists are completely unaware of the value of their work and need to be encouraged to sell their work internationally. We are actively searching for more Art Hunters with the right backgrounds in India and Guatemala.”
Once the art has been found, a panel of art aficionados determine which pieces go on the site.
“We only feature art which is very high in quality, sized between 16×16 and 32×32 (in), priced at our right level and has a unique story to it.”
Once a painting is sold, the local Art Hunter will then ship it to the buyer. Art Sumo does offer its buyers a money back guarantee, but Naysawn tells us, “Nobody has ever taken us up on it.”
In fact, Art Sumo is doing so well that about half of the featured paintings have been sold within a day of being listed, with prices ranging from $150 to $460. There are about 10 paintings currently available on the site.
A testament to just how Art Sumo has been able to connect buyers and artists all over the world, is the fact that the purchases aren’t limited to the US, with buyers as far flung as Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.
Art Sumo recently began using Twitter and Facebook as a means of marketing its paintings, and has found a creative use for social media marketing. They don’t just announce the sales on the social networks, but instead Art Sumo has held two successful Dutch auctions, an event which will be held on a weekly basis. Rather than drive the price of the paintings up, the more people share the painting on Facebook or Twitter, the more the price goes down – specifically $1 for every share. The Dutch auction concept is a brilliant use of social media, where both Art Sumo and the buyer have something to gain.
As far as future plans are concerned, Naysawn explains:
“We are staying focused on serving up one curated painting from the small corners of the world every day. Our fans love vicariously traveling the world each day and we would like to do an even better job of presenting vicarious travel and the artist’s story. At some point we will begin to offer low priced prints on canvas of the painting of the day.”
The art itself which is featured on Art Sumo is pretty varied in style, as the examples below, from Brazil and Colombia respectively, demonstrate:
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.