Snapshot: ArtSpotter


Snapshot: ArtSpotter

ArtSpotter is an Internet ‘smart map’ that invites users to share their art discoveries using social networks. TB&I spoke to founder Raphaëlle Heaf about the site.

What does ArtSpotter do?

ArtSpotter is an Internet database of galleries, exhibitions and street art on a map that allows you to discover and engage with galleries all over the world.

Users can sign up directly or via Facebook and it’s completely free. You can also share your discoveries on Twitter and Facebook, promote your shows or explore art in different cities. We include everything from street art and pop-up shops to open studios, not just the galleries and main museums.

How does the ArtSpotter business model work?

We’re not making any money at the moment, but in the future we’ll be offering the venues a sort of Google Analytics for their venue and their community. The idea is to help them better understand their audience and communicate with them.

How do you promote ArtSpotter’s brand online?

We have a weekly strategy which involves blogging, tweeting, posting to Facebook and Pinterest, and sometimes uploading clips to YouTube. We also send a weekly newsletter. We try and have a theme each week where we explore different cities or events in the art world.

Usually on a Monday we produce a city map, and feature interviews with different artists, curators or the galleries from that particular city, as well as highlighting some of the shows which are opening.

We do try to make sure that everything is connected: everything we tweet goes on our Facebook page, and posts on our Facebook wall are tweeted. Links to our blogs and newsletters go on both.

We also share content from other communities, feature guest posts and videos, and share images on Pinterest. We’ve made a couple of our own videos when we work on events, and those are a good way to talk about what’s going on in these venues.

Is there an ArtSpotter app?

We’re in the process of getting it out. It’ll have the same functionality as the site, but will allow people to share and discover things instantly when they’re out and about, so you can open the app, see exactly what’s around you, and add to the map really quickly and easily.

Does ArtSpotter have any intellectual property?

Everything we build and all of the design work is owned by ArtSpotter Ltd. All our code is custom-written, except for open source libraries which are very specifically referenced. We are looking into an ArtSpotter trademark as an art social network, but owning our code is important to us and for our investors.


When you’re building an app, you have what’s called the back end, which will be written in one particular language. For it to be investable, it needs to be custom-written, so it can’t be copied and pasted from someone else’s libraries unless it’s been specifically open sourced. We always make sure that any designers or marketing people we work with are aware that the work they are producing is owned by the company and it cannot be used elsewhere.

In small start-up businesses, most code base is not patentable, so you worry that people might copy and paste your code. You have to have pretty secure contracts and IP assignment deeds in place.

What measures do you have in place to prevent copyright infringement by your contributors?

We’ve lowered the bar as much as possible, so anybody can add anything they want. Quite often venues will contact us to request we add ‘copyright’ text to an uploaded image.

No-one has yet asked us to take anything down because we’re helping to promote events, not reselling any of the imagery or content. Sometimes we need to attribute a particular photographer or artist but haven’t had the details to hand when we initially posted the image. Now we have press access to lots of the main databases, so we can get all the information we need.

How easy would it be to imitate ArtSpotter?

There are several art maps out there, but we’re the largest arts venue database in the world, in terms of active users and their engagement. As far as we’re aware we’re twice as big as our competitors, featuring 10,500 venues in 45 countries.

A couple of people have tried to create a similar idea, but whether you succeed comes down to the execution. I come from the art world myself so I have a lot of contacts and support from there, and understand how the art world needs this to work in order to make it viable. That’s why we’ve managed to keep going when others have slowed down or failed.

This article was first published on 01 April 2013 in World IP Review

ArtSpotter, smart map, social media, copyright infringement

Trademarks and Brands Online