History

Artsy was launched in 2012 as the "Art Genome Project" and grew exponentially ever since.

By 2014 we had 230,000 works of art from 600 museums and institutions and launched our first business, a subscription service for commercial galleries, bringing over 80,000 works for sale and partnerships with 37 art fairs and a handful of benefit auctions. That year collectors from 82 countries inquired on over $5.5B of art.

By 2015 we doubled our "for sale" inventory and aggregated 4,000 of the world's leading galleries and 60 art fairs. We also launched two new businesses: commercial auctions and online media.

Finally, in 2016 we, again, doubled our paid gallery network size to become the largest gallery network in the world and grew to become the most-read online art publication as our highly engaging editorial traffic ballooned 320%. We also launched a platform to bid in live auctions and a consignments service with all major auction houses.

The Artsy Business in 2017

Artsy in 2017 is a very wide platform and it can be challenging to characterize simply. But when you boil it down to its essence, Artsy offers information and a marketplace. Our written content and fair coverage keep people informed about the art world, and the Art Genome powers our tools for exploration. Through our partnerships with the major player in the art market, galleries and auction houses, we offer our users a unified platform for buying and selling art.

Internally we consider Artsy to have three businesses: Auctions, Content and Listings.

  • Auctions: Auction houses and charities use Artsy as a sales channel for a commission because collectors want to discover and buy art in a single, central platform that excels at surfacing the art they want from a global market.

  • Content: Brands pay Artsy to reach the first art audience at scale by enabling evergreen content online and for offline engagement during art world events.

  • Listings: Galleries, Fairs and Institutions subscribe to Artsy for a fee because we bring a very large audience of art collectors and enthusiasts to their virtual doors.

The Artsy team is now 166 employees across three offices in New York, Berlin and London. The Engineering organization is now 28 engineers, including 4 leads, 3 directors and a CTO. In this post, we'd like to comprehensively cover what, and how we make the technical and human sides of Artsy businesses work.

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Like anyone working on a non-trivial app in the iOS world who values their time, we use fastlane. fastlane is a suite of tools that makes it much simpler to automate the very manual processes provided by Apple for deployment.

We've adopted it in a relatively piece-meal manner in different projects, converting custom in-house code to something provided by the gem. Over time we found what pieces of the suite work for us. I've adopted another today: match.

match automates setting up your iOS projects for code signing. One of the most arduous orthogonal tasks which every dev team learns and then forgets.

In using match, we have given away a bit of control with code signing, and so this post is going to dig into; what we used to have, and how it works now with match instead.

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While Artsy is the largest database of Contemporary Art online, it's not exactly "big data". To date, we have published over 500,000 artworks by more than 50,000 artists from over 4,000 galleries, 700 museums and institutions across over 40,000 shows. Our team has written thousands of articles, hosted hundreds of art fairs and a few dozen auctions. We have over 1,000 genes from the Art Genome project, too.

There're just over a million web pages generated from this data on artsy.net. Generating sitemaps to submit to Google and other search engines for a million pages never seemed like a big deal. In this post I'll describe 3 generations of code, including our most recent iteration that uses Apache Spark to generates static sitemap files in S3.

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Hey there, so you've decided to take a look at React Native? Well, last week I ran a workshop inside Artsy on React Native and Relay.

The video takes you from react-native init to having the initial structure of a View Controller based on Relay with a real working API request. The video is about 45 minutes, with inline questions.

If you wanted to just run through the notes, you could probably get it working in about 10 minutes.

Jump to YouTube for the video, or click more for a smaller inline preview, as well as all of the speakers notes to copy & paste from. There is also a full copy of the end-result at orta/Relay-Artist-Example.

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Swift became public in June 2014, by August we had started using it in Artsy. By October, we had Swift in production channelling hundreds of thousands of dollars in auction bids.

It is pretty obvious that Swift is the future of native development on Apple platforms. It was a no-brainer to then build an Apple TV app in Swift, integrated Swift-support into our key app Eigen and built non-trivial parts of that application in Swift.

We first started experimenting with React Native in February 2016, and by August 2016, we announced that Artsy moved to React Native effectively meaning new code would be in JavaScript from here onwards.

We're regularly asked why we moved, and it was touched on briefly in our announcement but I'd like to dig in to this and try to cover a lot of our decision process. So, if you're into understanding why a small team of iOS developers with decades of native experience switched to JavaScript, read on.

This post will cover: What are Artsy's apps?, Swifts positives and negatives for us, React Native, and our 1-year summary.

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The Artsy web team have been early adopters of node, and for the last 4 years the stable stack for the Artsy website has been predominantly been Node + CoffeeScript + Express + Backbone. In 2016 the mobile team announced that it had moved to React Native, matching the web team as using JavaScript as the tools of their trade.

Historically we have always had two separate dev teams for building Artsy.net and the corresponding iOS app, we call them (Art) Collector Web, and Collector Mobile. By the end of 2016 we decided to merge the teams. The merger has given way to a whole plethora of ideas about what contemporary JavaScript looks like and we've been experimenting with finding common, natural patterns between web and native.

This post tries to encapsulate what we consider to be our consolidated stack for web/native Artsy in 2017.

TLDR: TypeScript, GraphQL, React/React Native, Relay, Yarn, Jest, and Visual Studio Code.

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Artsy's end of year features are an annual chance to walk through highlights of the year while also exploring front-end experiments. Created in collaboration with UBS and designed by Owen Dodd, The Year In Art 2016 presents an interactive timeline of singular moments in art and culture over the past year.

2017 Year In Art Animation Sample

The piece opens with header animation, a series of transparent sliding boxes that presented a unique challenge. The finalized look is somewhat like a slinky- a stack of containers that are stretched open from the bottom, and compress again as they reach the top of the viewport, collapsing inward without ever crossing outside the screen.

Achieving this effect required animating elements in response both to the size of other elements in the viewport, and to the client’s scroll interactions, all while sitting transparently over a video background.

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We have a lot of really awesome data. Things worth exploring, and visualizing. We have an entire team devoted to it, looks like they're hiring too. Not all of the output of the data comes from that team though, 2 years ago our Director of Product Engineering, Craig Spaeth created a static-site generator that mapped our partners around the globe. Last week I've been improving it.

An animated map of galleries

Projects like these happen in most companies, quick hacks for one offs that are opened 2 years later by someone completely different to build on top of it. In trying to follow the Boy Scout rule, I've cleaned it up and consolidated some other similar projects. This post is a rough road-map of what making this PR looked like.

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