The Ministry of Artistic Affairs
Thursday, December 1, 2011

Borrowing tactics from Groupon and eBay, three Toronto entrepreneurs are about to launch an e-mail auction site for Toronto works of art.

ArtBomb will send out an e-mail each day to subscribers who can bid on the featured work with the click of a mouse. Bidding will start at under $1,000 but some works will begin at $150. The average is about $400.
“We’re trying to keep the prices fairly low to encourage young buyers,” says ArtBomb co-founder Carrie Shibinksy, a former communications officer for the Art Gallery of Ontario for 21 years.

“I didn’t want it to be the cheapest deal. It’s about targeting a different market.”

Jim Shedden, head of digital content and publishing at the Art Gallery of Ontario, is the site’s co-founder.

The works will be curated by art critic Andrea Carson Barker, whose website View on Canadian Art covers the art scene in Canada with an emphasis on Toronto.

Carson Barker meets with each artist and together they select a piece for ArtBomb and decide on what the opening bid will be.

“I look for work that has an energy to it, work that is surprising to me, that appears fresh to me,” says Barker.

“A lot of our artists are just starting out in their careers. Their work is not too expensive because they haven’t entered the market too deeply.

“Every day will be a surprise. Some days you’ll love what you see and some days you won’t.”

The artists were chosen by asking art professors to recommend promising students, putting out calls on Facebook, Twitter and with an e-mail blast to the subscribers of, a Toronto-based company that promotes contemporary visual arts.

ArtBomb will offer works from all media, including sculpture, photography, printing and mixed-media and will feature work from recent OCAD grads to mature artists.

Artists pay $150 to have their work featured, whether or not it is sold.

“If their art doesn’t sell, at least it’s been seen by thousands of like-minded people,” says Shibinksy.
Each piece will be featured from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Subscribers can bid by clicking on the big red button to the right of the work of art, which includes an artist bio.

The art will be delivered to the winning bidder via courier for no extra charge in the Toronto area. Deliveries outside of Toronto will be charged to the buyer. For now ArtBomb only includes works by Toronto artists.
ArtBomb has 60 works of art ready to go for launch on Dec. 7.

Artists receive half of the final bid, which is what they would receive from a bricks-and-mortar gallery.

Artist Leanne Davies learned about ArtBomb on Twitter and submitted a work after consulting with Barker.

“I have shown in group shows in Paris, in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and the U.S. and I’ve gained some interest from galleries internationally, I just never have been able to do it locally,” said Davies.
“That’s part of the reason I was interested in ArtBomb. I felt it would be a way for me to get more exposure locally.”

Emerging artists are increasingly turning to the Internet to get exposure, says Stanzi Tooth, curator and gallery manager at the Lonsdale Gallery. But so far, conventional galleries don’t feel threatened.

“By and large art work is still sold in person. It’s hard to get a sense of the work in online images,” says Tooth.

By Francine Kopun for the Toronto Star.