Art app maker adds London library to collection

Ashland-based art printer The Image Collective and makers of the Art Authority app on Monday announced a new agreement to provide customers access to a portion of London-based Bridgeman Art Library's 200,000-piece digital art collection.

The move is one more step in the right direction for a homegrown web of local businesses steadily building a market around art appreciation in the digital era, business owners said.

The digital copies are retina-display quality images from art in Bridgeman's library and will be available on the Art Authority app and for print order in less than two months, said TIC Principle Architect, Rob Saladoff.

"The ultimate goal will be to reach over 200,000 images," said Saladoff. "It's just going to take some time to coordinate the effort."

The Image Collective currently offers about 170,000 pieces of art which it reprints and ships to customers, and will start with a "couple thousand pieces," from the Bridgeman library and build off that, he said.

The popular Art Authority app, which organizes and displays thousands of images of art, will begin hosting the Bridgeman collection at the same rate, said Open Door Networks President Alan Oppenheimer.

Open Door Networks and Project A, both Ashland-based, created Art Authority.

The app currently accesses more than 50,000 works of art from about 100 different artists, and also has a button for users to order a print directly from TIC.

Apps, short for applications, are used on mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad to do everything from play video games to browse a store's product offerings.

The Image Collective, which ships hundreds of true-color prints of the world's great art to museums and their customers daily, currently has deals in the United States with the Getty Museum, the Boston Public Library and the Norman B. Leventhal Map Collection, and in England with the Royal Photographic Society, the National Railway Museum, the National Media Museum, the National Science Museum, the Bridgeman Collection, and others.

"We're really at the start of the beginning of something big," said Oppenheimer. "It can be such a huge market "… easily, the business could be 10 times bigger in five years."

It could also fade away as a passing fad, like so many Internet marvels in the past, he said.

"We consider this deal a very important part of laying our foundation for the future," Oppenheimer said. "It's a partnership going forward that can make a huge difference not only here in Ashland, but around the world."

Houston's Custom Framing and Fine Art, in Ashland, which has been fulfilling art framing requests from TIC customers for about a year, manufactures about 25-30 frames a month now, and expects to see an increase in business as more deals like this emerge, said Tom Houston, who owns the gallery with his wife Stephanie.

"It's been slowly but steadily building," said Tom Houston, about the number or customers who want their art from TIC framed. "I could see it just skyrocketing to the point where we would need a separate production space here in town."

That's the goal, he said, as Houston's could easily produce more than 50 frames a day with its current shop and staff.

"This is three small, local, home-brew, high-tech companies teaming up with a fourth larger player," said Oppenheimer.

"And we expect to do great things," said Saladoff.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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