Alexandria
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Alexandria

Alexandria — 2021

Alexandria started with a simple yet ambitious mission — to modernize the art world and make exploring fine art accessible to all.

We knew the art world was antiquated in its technology and methods, but did not know how exactly we could make an impact.

As lovers of art ourselves, we tried to first solve our own problems with the art world.

In our experiences, scrolling through museum or gallery sites was one of the worst ways to discover art we loved — these sites had no accurate labeling, no personalization, and left no agency to the user themselves.

How was it, we wondered, that products like Amazon, TikTok, or Tinder had mastered the art of matching users to what they’re looking for with near-perfect accuracy, but the fine art world was unable to create such experiences online?

We theorized that a data-driven art discovery experience optimized for today’s online-first world would provide a digital access point to the art world, translating user’s tastes and matching them with art they’re guaranteed to love. This year, we launched an MVP to over 500 users upon release, and found an answer to our question.

The lack of data infrastructure to move fine art online perpetuates poor online art experiences.

Artwork is currently labeled manually, with little to no metadata corresponding to user user preferences.

We solved this internally with a robust data pipeline and management system that could pull artwork from existing sources, automatically classify and label these images, and construct connections between artworks.

Basic user preferences are exposed manually, either forcing users through non-engaging webpages or requiring a curator to process form submissions and conversations to understand what a buyer was looking for.

We built a recommendation system into our MVP that consolidated all of the user’s engagement into a vector that could be used to map the user’s tastes relative to the artwork in our database. With a short but engaging onboarding quiz, users could instantly have a personalized online experience to browse work that fits their interest.

Alexandria was accepted to the Columbia Startup Lab, and I graduated from college to start working full time on Alexandria.

We began to test monetization strategies over what we had built, starting with consumer models. Throughout the summer, we continuously iterated on our consumer quiz, and tested strategies such as print sales and 1–1 buyer-artist matching. However, we didn’t have nearly enough art actively for sale.

On one end, we started building a community of emerging artists to show within Alexandria’s discovery experiences. We’ve started with listening and promoting first,

On the other, in the fall months, we began conversations with art sellers (physical galleries and online sellers) to drive buyers from our quiz to their marketplaces. Through these exploratory sessions, we realized that there was far more we could do with what we already had.

Art sellers have huge collections of art they want to show, and want to modernize their online experiences. Some wanted help with data management and enabling proper distribution of artwork online, others were interested in plugging into recommendations as a service to personalize their website experiences.

We took this idea to Art Basel, and spoke with gallery owners and sellers to further understand the issues they faced and how we could adapt what we’ve built to their needs.

At the end of this year, we started our first partnership with See.Me.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us along this journey so far — the last 6 months of working on Alexandria full time has been an incredible learning experience. We’re incredibly excited for the next year as we set up pilot programs, and as we continue to modernize the way fine art is sold online. More information about Alexandria can be found at our website, www.alexandria.app, or our Onepager.

-Matt

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Learning about art doesn’t have to be time-consuming or high-commitment. Alexandria’s algorithms select new artwork for you daily and allow you to track your evolving tastes in art.

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Matthew Cheng

Matthew Cheng

Co-founder of Alexandria.app, a free data-driven approach to personal art curation. Integrating tech and culture. Columbia University ’21 MechE, CS, History

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