Online art distributor Twyla comes out of stealth with $19M in funding

by Kelly O'Halloran
October 18, 2016

Earlier this month, online art hub Twyla burst out of stealth mode after a year and a half in operation, announcing a $19 million round of financing that will help propel the company on its mission to connect art buyers with internationally recognized art pieces.

Co-founded by Brian Sharples and Matt Randall, the site offers curated, limited-edition prints selected by the Twyla team from over 80 artists who have been featured in galleries like the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Guggenheim, LACMA, MoMA, Gagosian Gallery, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Palais de Tokyo. The idea is to give art lovers a gateway to own modern art from world renowned artists for a fraction of the price of an original piece.

"We're laser focused on answering 'Where do I buy art?' for a new generation of art buyers all over the world," said Randall.

Google Ventures led the round, with additional investments from Redpoint Ventures and Institutional Venture Partners.

Randall said that over the course of a year, most artists sell about 10 to 12 new, original pieces throughout various galleries, earning 50 percent of the sale along the way. 

Twyla digitizes that experience, and opens up new options to both buyers and sellers along the way. Interested buyers can expect a cost range anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per piece. In turn, the artists receive an additional stream of revenue with the chance to out earn their gallery sales. 

"If they sell out an edition through Twyla, by doing little to no more work, [artists] can make two, to three, to four times more than they would out of selling out of a gallery," Randall said. 

In addition to the limited edition pieces signed and numbered by the artist, each purchase arrives in a custom-built, museum-quality Twyla frame, with a certificate of authenticity and a welcome kit that has guidance and tools for things like hanging and cleaning. Consumers in 12 cities (including Austin, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago) also have the option to pay a flat fee of $150 to have professional installers come to their homes to complete an installation.

As the former co-founder and CEO of the POP Austin International Art Show, Randall's past ventures have deep ties to the art community. When he, Sharples and a group of friends and artists held discussions on seller limitations and the blurry methods of buying art, the idea for Twyla was born. 

"We were all thinking the same thing. We have no idea where to buy quality art — really art at all —for an affordable price point," said Randall. 

Since curating the idea, artists from all over the world have approached them to be featured on Twyla, including street artists from Berlin and creators who have sold pieces for $100,000 in LA. 

All of the pieces on Twyla, which currently counts more than 300 selections in its collection, arrive in Austin for a quality check before getting shipped to buyers. Randall himself looks at every single piece to ensure it's up to par, with local designers building the frames.

On the artist's side, Twyla sends a full-size image for review before going to market, giving artists the control to make changes as necessary and verify that their vision remains in tact. Randall said this differs from other digital print sellers that instead send color swatches of a corner of the piece for review, rather than the full image. 

This month's financing will be used in the licensing, curation and manufacturing of the pieces, artist relations, client experience installation and every other touch point for the consumer. 

The Twyla team currently operates with a staff of 30 who sit out of Austin, London and New York and has plans to add a head of production to its roster.

Images provided by Twyla.

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