The History of ArtWise
Widewalls: Founded almost thirty years ago, ArtWise has developed from a small selection of museum and exhibition posters to an expansive inventory of highly sought-after artworks. What is the secret of its longevity and excellence?
Bernard Rougerie: All along we curated every piece. We built the collection with major artists. As a small company, we could be more patient with smaller vendors that had great images but poor delivery logistics.
In the same way, we were able to adapt to museums’ packing limitations and actually pack our own art on premises.
Finally, our passion for posters was shared with dealers around the world and we shared our finds with one another.
Widewalls: Could you tell us something about the history and evolution of the platform?
BR: When we started in 1993, the industry was conducted through catalogues. The largest companies published the most comprehensive poster catalogues. These catalogues could be found in every frame shop, poster shop around the world. Clients would browse the catalogues until they found the desired piece. Once the item was selected, the business owner would call the publisher and order the artwork wanted.
Once the poster arrived, the client would return to select framing. At one point, we had over 9000 active shops buying from us. The larger catalogues were the operating software, the “Windows” of every shop back then. It was the war of the catalogues and discounts.
As internet connections improved and computer speed increased, clients found it less and less appealing to visit and shop and settle for whatever the catalogues offered. The internet opened the poster world to thousands and thousands more images than any catalogue could ever hold. It was a quick extinction and our exit from under the shadows of the big publishers.
During those years of the big catalogues, as the poster business became more and more competitive, publishers moved away from high quality to the lower-end more profitable images, unfortunately mostly images from unknown artists and fast trends.
We started our online platform very early, back in 1995 when most households were still on dial-up.
Fast forward and thanks to Google search, clients were now able to find images they wanted by the artists they loved most. We only carried the most known artists. As it goes, people could only search for what they knew, and we had most of the well-known names. Our platform exploded and remains tops today.
As e-retailers grew, we were very active in documenting every single piece of artwork we bought and keeping our collection current.