Venture Capital Vies for Art Start-Ups

New York -- Leon Black, pictured here with one of his art acquisitions, is a billionaire whose collection of masterpieces includes “The Scream". He is among investors putting venture capital into startups devoted to modernizing the way the art world conducts its business.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network now see significant investor capital and energy dedicated to revolutionizing the economics of art.

ArtBinder Inc., whose iPad application is used by more than 300 galleries worldwide, secured $3.17 million in funding from a group led by Index Ventures, the San Francisco and Europe-based company said today in a statement.

Black, the chief executive officer of private-equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, and Bruce Gibney, an early PayPal backer, also invested.

Startups in the fine arts are expected to raise $144.6 million in 2014, a 14 percent increase from last year and the second straight gain for the industry, according to data compiled by Seattle-based research company PitchBook Data Inc.

Patreon Inc., whose website links patrons with emerging artists to support, gathered $15 million from backers led by Index Ventures last month and Artsy Inc., which sells art online and through mobile applications, raised $18.5 million in April.

The market “is incredibly antiquated and full of friction whether you’re buying or selling,” Index Ventures co-founder Neil Rimer said in a phone interview from Geneva, where Index Ventures has an office. “We’ve been interested in the art market as a business opportunity for quite a while given its size and the fact that it’s still largely done in a very old-fashioned way.”

Gallery Assistant

ArtBinder founder Alexandra Chemla, 27, said she realized her time spent creating physical binders of artwork as a gallery assistant for Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in Manhattan could be streamlined by putting the same material on an iPad, shaving off days of art-fair preparation.

“I decided to make an app since I couldn’t find one,” she said. “There isn’t anyone who’s specifically focused on what we’re doing.”

Chemla, who was raised in New York and studied art at Brown University, met Black and his family growing up and said she reconnected with him through their overlapping involvement in the art world.

Black, 62, has amassed an art collection that includes Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” which he bought in 2012 for $119.9 million.

The investor sits on the boards of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, and was ranked on Art & Auction magazine’s list of the top 10 most powerful art world participants last year.