ARTBnk owners plan to revolutionize art valuationsBy KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
July 22. 2018 11:46PM
PORTSMOUTH – A new real time valuation tool being developed in Portsmouth is promising to disrupt the fine art market.
Jamie LaFleur, Robert J. Steinberg and Kelly Wright are the executives behind ARTBnk on Penhallow Street. ARTBnk is an online application using artificial intelligence that values tradeable art for enthusiasts, helps people find pieces to buy and manages their investments in a database that can be shared with financial advisers and attorneys.
When an art owner is ready to sell, they can ask for it to be placed in upcoming auctions through ARTBnk in minutes.
The trio said last week private fine art collections in the United States are worth more than $1 trillion. International sales are up to $70 billion a year, LaFleur said.
LaFleur, who has been dealing fine art since 2004, said one of the biggest issues businesses and collectors have is managing their inventory and understanding its worth in real time. Professional appraisals can cost $1,500 and lose their credibility over the course of years.
“The art world is run like it’s 1875. It’s controlled by a small number of experts that have jurisdiction over the marketplace,” LaFleur said.
Steinberg called ARTBnk transformative financial technology so people in the art market know they are being treated fairly. Private investors have stepped up to support the startup company, which was incorporated in 2017 and has 40 employees.
“It’s one of those light bulb disruptors. Like, ‘Oh, this changes everything. How do I get involved?’” Steinberg said of the reactions they have received.
Wright was trained in appraisals in New York City in the mid-1990s. He worked for small auction firms before establishing himself at Freeman’s Auction House in Philadelphia.
Wright regularly appears on “Antiques Roadshow,” a popular PBS show seen by about 8 million viewers each week.
Wright said the traditional job of appraisers is to manually pore over raw data. He said as ARTBnk grows, it will become another data point for people in his profession.
“I think appraisers are still going to want to do their own work, but they’ll have this additional data to help assess the work,” Wright said.
Wright explained that there is no set definition for condition of fine art used globally by appraisers, so that is something he is hoping ARTBnk can address with their product.
Eventually, the plan is to branch out to include valuations for photography, jewelry, watches and wine.
The basic version of ARTBnk is free. For real-time valuations, subscriptions cost $30 per month for 30, $50 per month for 50 and unlimited access is $100 a month.
For more information, visit www.ARTBnk.com.