If you’ve ever been a tourist in Paris, you’ve probably been to Montmartre (and if you haven’t, well, shame on you!).
If there was a “Silicon Valley” for famous European artists, Montmartre would be it. Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso all lived or worked there at some point in time.
Today it is known as the principal artistic district of Paris and its streets are flooded with artists and caricaturists trying to tempt tourists with a portrait.
But now you can visit Montmartre without leaving your home. Well, almost.
Anyone can jump on Google Earth or Street View and take a little tour of the area but would miss out on experiencing the live, artist community. And while it’s unlikely that any digital product could ever truly replicate the experience, French startup Artistoon is an interesting first step in that direction.
Street artists get digital.
Cleverly calling itself the “Montmartre of the web,” the startup born out of a Startup Weekend Lyon in February 2011 may look a lot like California-based caricaturist community Wittygraphy. Artistoon, which officially launched its platform in November 2011, allows anyone to order a personalised portrait or caricature from those very same artists that you would find on the streets of Montmartre. The company currently works with 15 different artists – all selected through a process based on their portfolio quality and/or an actual portrait test – and is actively developing its artist base.
Click, send, draw.
When a user arrives on the site, there are a variety of different portrait and caricature styles to choose from, which range anywhere from €18 to €400 in price depending on the style, medium, size and artist. Users simply select the style they want, send over their digital photo (after payment) and wait to receive their portrait (the time estimation is oh-so-nicely displayed before ordering, unlike evil online food-delivery services!!). Users can choose to have up to 6 faces featured in a single portrait *for the same price* and can send in additional image personalisation requests during check out.
For the moment, Artistoon is only shipping in France but the team has definitely expressed an interest in shipping to English-speaking markets – especially to the US, where the founders believe European art is well appreciated. Hmm, maybe art will be on this year’s French innovation trends list alongside food, fashion and flirting? After all, the image of the passionate French artist complete with beret, mustache and paintbrush-in-hand is almost as iconic as the baguette, the Chanel bag or even the French kiss. If Artistoon also sold original, romantic poems, it would be like receiving a little piece of personalised 19th century France by post.
(Not really sure what this is about but you get the point.)
Art: digital yet not so digital?
Artists are often the last people anyone would ever expect to go digital (but wait, then again even Banksy has a website). Traditional art forms are getting their own digital make-overs, with photo potentially leading the way. Yet, marketplaces for quality handmade products (like Etsy or French equivalent A Little Market) – also provide a channel for individuals to request personalised creations from people around the globe.
In the meantime, for anyone who is too impatient and too poor for an Artistoon portrait, I recommend that you simply upload and remake a silly photo of yourself using Turkish-made BeFunky.