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Q&A: Kim Gordon

The entrepreneur on how to properly store and protect digital artwork.

BY Ted Loos | Work | Feb 1, 2015
Photo By Molly Decoudreaux

Nearly everyone in the art world agrees that digital artworks are a big part of the future—and nearly everyone also agrees that they present a conundrum for collectors. How to properly store, maintain and display a complex video piece? One entrepreneur has some answers.

Kim Gordon is the 28-year-old CEO and cofounder of San Francisco-based startup Depict. Her company, funded by $2.3 million from angel investors including early Uber backer (and Boston Celtics co-owner) Jim Pallotta and early PayPal backer Bruce Gibney, is harnessing technology in the service of art. Founded in 2012, Depict is now taking orders on its signature device, the Frame ($1,800), an ultra-HD, 4K-resolution display for increasingly ambitious—and expensive—digital artworks. Depict is also creating a distribution network and tracking system for digital art.

Gordon, an art-lover who favors Modigliani, has an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and helped build the first domestic carbon-trading platform in China while working for nonprofit Emissions Zero in Shanghai (she also speaks Mandarin). Gordon talked to Worth about how her company aims to secure and promote the market for digital art.

Q: HOW BIG IS THE DIGITAL ART MARKET?

A: Assuming the definition is work made from totally digital media, according to an analysis of data from ArtTactic, Artnet, Reuters, Deloitte and Arts Economics, last year there was just under $1 billion transacted; the year before, it was around $200 million.

WHAT DOES DEPICT DO?

There are tons of artists making work digitally, but there’s no great way to safely transact it—Depict has designed a system to both protect works from digital piracy and track their digital provenance. And digital art hasn’t had a proper physical home, which the Depict Frame is. People have been blown away by it—you don’t see the pixels.

DEPICT HAS SEVERAL DIFFERENT PARTS. HOW DO THEY MESH?

It’s an ecosystem for digital art. The parallel isn’t perfect, but sometimes I say Depict does for art what iTunes did for music. You don’t have to buy a Depict Frame to buy the art on Depict or display it. You can display it on a smart TV, or Chromecast, or Apple AirPlay, on your existing screens.

SO THE COMPANY IS DOING MORE THAN SELLING A DEVICE—IT’S ALSO BUILDING A MARKETPLACE.

Yes. We developed a system for creating digital scarcity. It’s cloud-based digital watermarking, but it’s invisible—you can’t see it. The work automatically receives this digital watermark when it’s uploaded. You can track the provenance of the image, which allows us to create a secondary market. People can track the ownership history and buy and sell auction-style, and we can cut in artists on the appreciation of their work. We also offer subscriptions to curated collections.

ARE ARTISTS SUPPORTING THIS DIGITAL MARKETPLACE?

Our approach is very artist-centric. We don’t like to alter anyone’s work—we just tell them what will make their work look best. Our curatorial team will check to see that the aspect ratio and resolution are proper. And we won’t put the artwork on the system until the artist approves.

WHAT ABOUT GALLERIES—ARE YOU HORNING IN ON THEIR BUSINESS?

Galleries are generally quite supportive of this—they can’t do it on their own. Of course, some galleries don’t feel digital art is a legitimate medium, which is silly. But there was a time when [art experts] didn’t consider photography legitimate.

SHOULD NON-TECH-SAVVY PEOPLE BE NERVOUS ABOUT BUYING A FRAME?

It’s a very easy device for the tech-challenged to use—it’s installed with a white-glove service, and it’s designed as very low-touch. My parents are adept at it. That’s how I know we did a good job.

For more information, info@depict.com, 415.495.9200, depict.com/frame.

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