Artsicle Lets Indecisive New Yorkers Rent Art Before They Commit to Buying

4/7/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Start browsing the artwork available for rent at Artsicle.com, and it won’t be long before a window pops up offering a real live curator to help you make your selection. The live-chat feature is a lot of work for Artsicle founders Alexis Tryon and Scott Carleton because, well, they’re Artiscle’s only full-time curators. That means they have to respond to every request for live help. But it’s worth the hassle, says Tryon, because choosing artwork is hard, and she wants Artsicle to be the go-to site for every harried New Yorker who’s looking to dress up a bare abode. “Live chat is an amazing tool. We answer their questions, and they don’t get frustrated,” Tryon says.

Artsicle has been called the Netflix of art, and the name fits—sort of. Potential art buyers in New York can browse the site and pick pieces to rent for $50 a month. Artsicle delivers the art using couriers (which are sometimes Tryon and Carleton themselves). Customers can hang the art in their homes for as long as they’re willing to continue paying the monthly fee.

At that point, the resemblance to Netflix ends. While it’s true Artsicle customers can rent pieces indefinitely, the idea is for them to eventually find something to buy. Artsicle features works by about 30 artists, at prices ranging from $500 to more than $3,000. Artsicle takes a 30 percent commission on every sale. Owners of brick-and-mortar galleries, by contrast, generally take 50 percent, Tryon says.

Ever since the site launched on March 1st, it has pulled in about one new customer every other day. Artsicle has sold 15 paintings so far—way exceeding the entrepreneurs’ expectations. “Our goal,” Tryon jokes, “was to keep the site from crashing.”

Tryon’s low expectations were probably warranted, considering Artsicle’s inauspicious beginning. Tryon, who was working in restaurant marketing at American Express, knew she wanted to start a business that capitalized on her longtime love of art. She teamed up with Carleton, a mechanical engineer, and they started experimenting … Next Page »

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