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Interview with Rob Anders, Co-Founder and CEO at Niio

Rob Anders, Co-Founder & CEO at Niio

Niio is a technology start-up at the heart of the art world as it goes digital. Created to be an entire ecosystem for the realm of new media art, Niio was founded in 2014 by Rob Anders (CEO) and Oren Moshe (CPO). Niio has become one of the world’s leading ‘collaborative’ platforms for digital artwork – a hub for artists, galleries, curators and collectors from across the world. We spoke to Rob who sheds light on what Niio offers and how they hope to shape the art market by enabling the widespread exposure of digital format art to reach and inspire people everywhere.

 

Hello Rob – thank you for speaking to us.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how Niio was founded?

I’m originally from London and before Niio I was the CEO of a display tech company. I have always been fascinated with the way people interact with technology and its evolution. With my background in building tech companies, especially in emerging sectors going digital I have grown increasingly passionate about tech being an enabler. We’re generating so much noise around ourselves that we need to find a positive alternative, a meaningful digital experience that connects people again and starts conversations. This was the start of my personal journey with art.

I partnered with Oren in 2014. We had collaborated in business before on a very successful tech venture and were keen to build something together. We wanted to create something meaningful that reflected our values and passions, something that would impact people everywhere.

Oren’s background was invaluable to the birth of Niio. He’s an award winning product and UX expert, but he also comes from an art background. He graduated from the top art academy in Israel, Bezalel, and lectured there for many years. He established an art and design faculty at the college and lectures there till this day. Oren is deeply fascinated by art trends and has a special interest in emerging artists creating innovative digital works. He understands through his students that there’s a gap in this field – a complete lack of tools to display and store their works.

And so, we started asking questions. Lots of questions, everywhere. We spoke to over 200 artists, galleries and collectors around the world and we came up with 3 primary concerns: 1. Premium quality digital art was almost impossible to find. 2. There was a gaping lack of technology and standards for safeguarding, showcasing and monetising digital artworks and 3. Many art and tech companies have sprung up over the last 5-10 years but their founders are from either an art or tech background – rarely both – which simply doesn’t work.  This is why Niio is different. Oren and I combine experience in art, product and user experience as well as working with high tech companies.

We decided we wanted to create something different and to use a cliché – bring digital art to a wider audience. The digital medium is the most important of our generations and something that resonates most with a broad audience, some of whom are not entirely comfortable with art.

Artwork_ Quayola (UK) Pleasent Places (2015) photo credit to Paradise City Art Space
Quayola (UK) Pleasent Places (2015) Photo credit: Paradise City Art Space

 

What is your mission at Niio?

To bring everyone together into one ecosystem to enable the widespread exposure of digital art. New media art is born of a generation of artists creating diverse works using new technologies and tools. These creative devices include computer graphics; 3D animation; 4K video; Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Niio’s drive is to inspire people around the world, making it easy to experience curated digital art across living, working and public spaces.

 

Was there as much of a demand for digital art when you created Niio in 2014? How does it compare to now?

Art has always represented our age and artists will always want to create through the newest most socially relevant mediums. They will use whichever tools they can access to create their art and digital tools are now very accessible. Although video art has been with us since the 1970’s, it’s more easily available now and today’s artists are using it to tell the story of our digital age by creating something altogether new and exciting. Artists and galleries have historically used non-intended platforms to showcase their work (like Vimeo) and we found there was a need for a platform exclusively dedicated to digital art.

 

How does the technology and services Niio offers for management and distribution differ from other companies?

Our team is made up of people who have worked at some of the world’s leading technology companies, therefore we have a very robust technological background.

The depth and scope of our technology is unprecedented. We can store massive master files in 3 physical locations for preservation purposes, run DNA tests on the artwork files to check their integrity and provide a unique suite of tools for self-publishing limited editions and controlling all aspects of transferring works between entities. We then use our own art media players to ensure these works can be displayed perfectly on any type of screen or projector. We have created a true end-to-end platform. Our distribution is a bit like WeTransfer on steroids.

Of course, there are a lot of great mass storage companies such as Google drive. However, there are none specifically dedicated to art storage and distribution. We are 100% built for the specific needs of digital format art.

 

Rob Anders
Rob Anders, Co-Founder & CEO at Niio

To what extent is digital disrupting the art market?

The traditional way of finding and buying artworks is most definitely changing. Galleries play an important role in terms of monitoring quality and they benefit from using these types of online platforms to showcase and sell works. At the same time, digital platforms also present opportunities for hundreds of thousands of unknown and emerging artists to showcase their work.

Art audiences are changing. We are seeing an increase in millennial and younger collectors. This is a demographic of people who have grown up around digital and therefore resonate with it more. As a result, they are buying digital format works more often and at higher prices.

At Niio we enable new models alongside purchasing which is especially applicable to digital format works like the subscription model which sees users paying a monthly fee to experience a high-quality selection of artworks. They can also then choose to purchase the collection. This expands reach and also introduces new sustainable income streams for artists who get a revenue share.

At Niio we curate collections from both gallery represented artists and emerging artists. Our curated collections offer artists the opportunity to showcase their work and generate an income. Their work is being monetized which is a market disruptor.

 

You have a broad client base around the world, do you see a difference in demand depending on the country?

Currently we operate in 42 countries and we are definitely seeing varied demand in terms of the openness to the media and the different types of art that resonate with different audiences. We have worked a lot in Asia, particularly China and Hong Kong – both very exciting markets. They are very digitally oriented with screens nearly everywhere you go. The companies that own these screens are huge corporations all of whom have a very strong philanthropic and art support side to their businesses. The way in which these locations are built and their mentality is very reflective of what we are trying to do.

We are growing fast across Asia and North America – the big difference is the type of art that is being consumed. We have growing numbers of artists from the West and East, it is very interesting to look at this cultural exchange opportunity.

 

How do projects vary when you are working with artists, galleries and collectors?

Artists and galleries on the Niio platform choose how they want their artworks to be exposed and potentially distributed. They own the work at all times, we are there simply to showcase it to clients all over the world. In some cases, artworks on Niio are for sale only and in other cases they are available as part of our curated collections. We work with 20 -25 curators who are curating collections by themes and genres and those collections are the ones that are available in the subscription model. Galleries use our platform for exposure to global collectors. Customers who want to buy works can browse individual catalogues of works and buy them in the same way that they would directly from a gallery.

 

There have been lots of art + tech summits all over the world – have you been alerted to any new technologies that you wish to work with?

I have been to many and to be honest, I’m a little bit cynical. There is a lot of talk of buzzwords like blockchain. I think blockchain is relevant in some cases, we use blockchain and it is particularly suited for digital works. At the same time, a lot of people are private and some collectors may not want the information, provenance and authenticity of their works recorded.

A lot of the art + tech summits seem to be driven by the buzzwords, but I find there is a limited show of examples of where it has come into effect. Truthfully, compared to other sectors technology in the art world is very far behind. I am all about applying technologies that add value.

I’m interested in aspects of Artificial Intelligence in terms of learning more about the artworks people want to experience and tracking the association and difference in people’s reactions to works. At Niio we’re interested in technology that is going to change the world and exposing this to the broadest possible audience.

 

Could you talk about your project in Hong Kong and your partnership with Sino Group?

We have a number of customers in Hong Kong, including big property groups with a desire to give a cultural contribution back to society. Together with Sino we invited artists from around the world to submit their artworks and a curated selection were shown on huge 70 metre screens at the Tsim Sha Tsui properties. This meant that 2-3 million people were stopping and being exposed to the artworks daily.

 

Can you tell us about any other projects you are working on?

We will be very busy at Art Basel in Hong Kong as well as working with a number of museums and galleries internationally on some exciting projects.

Another recent exhibition that we worked on was with the Italian artist Davide Quayola. It’s the artist’s first comprehensive exhibition in Asia, and is showing at the Art Space at Paradise City. The exhibition is curated by Doo Eun Choi and consists of six sections with multi-genre artworks, including about 50 pieces of digital print, video, sculpture, and robotic installation. It is definitely one to see if you can.

 

What are you hopes for the future of Niio and the market?

We are striving to become ‘the standard’ for the digital medium – the ‘go-to’ platform for all those involved with creation and consumption of digital format works. We want to inspire people everywhere by bringing a new type of moving visual culture to the world.

 

art credit: Zeitguised, ZEITGUISED x KVADRAT: emancipath
Art credit: Zeitguised, ZEITGUISED x KVADRAT: emancipath

Cover image: art credit: Daniel Belton and Good Company Arts – OneOne