If you have visited Works.io, which launched a beta version of its website this past May, you’ve seen that its main purpose is to create online portfolios for artists that look professional and are easy-to-manage. Abe sees this function as a great tool, especially for emerging artists: "Being able to properly document their work and having a professional portfolio to show to galleries or curators is one of the first steps in their career.”
In the future, he envisions a more complex network, like a LinkedIn for the art world, in which artists have a presence and can build connections with other art professionals. Yet the core mission of Works.io remains to make artist portfolios simple "so that artists can focus on what only they can do: make some great art."
This attitude and approach can be seen in the name of the company, called “works” because that is the focus of the site and each artist’s portfolio: the artworks themselves. This focus can sometimes get lost in the art world. As Abe told me, "I believe that artists are the heart of the whole art world. As the creators of the art, they are the foundation of everything, but if you look at the art world—the economics of it or the institutions—
This philosophy impacts the way that the site is organized: “Sort of like IMDB or Wikipedia, it is a place where an artwork could have a permanent home on the internet, a home of documentation. Every artwork that is uploaded has a unique URL, which has a lot of benefits like being easy to share and everyone always sees the same thing. It never changes, so there’s always a canonical source for the documentation of your artwork.”
Many artists already have websites, and I was curious to hear why someone would want to use Works.io rather than manage their own site. To Abe, an artist’s web presence and a portfolio on Works.io are complimentary rather than exclusive: "I think it's really good for artists to have their personal websites, because there they can show their personality or make it more customized or fun. It becomes a constraint to make it also look professional and show all their artworks and their CV, and that is where we take that burden and lift it off of them.” His idea is that Works.io is a simple place to manage the more straightforward but time-consuming documentation of an artist’s career. Then, it is easier for artists to create an additional presence on the web that reflects their personal artistic vision if they want one.
Although Abe’s background is in technology rather than art, he knows firsthand the difficulty of keeping an artist’s website up-to-date. He had been creating and managing a website for his wife, who is an artist, for years. When asked about how he came up with the idea for the software, he explains: “It really just came from building a simple website for my wife, to be an online portfolio. Of course, I wanted to make the best website ever, and then I came to the constant task of keeping it updated. Eventually I thought that I should build some software so she can update it herself.” Then Abe realized how this kind of software could be a useful tool for friends of his wife as well, encouraging him to begin to think about how he could develop it for a wider audience.
Abe recruited the help of friend and co-founder Patrick Urwyler, an art historian and curator who runs his own gallery, Chimera-Project, in Budapest. Abe and Patrick initially worked together in their free time, building the first early version with the idea of creating something truly professional for artists to use. This is what Abe means when he says, "We really have a deep, intimate knowledge about what problems an emerging artist has. Living with and working with these emerging artists ourselves, we're really close to it."
In the spring of 2013, the pair saw a chance to launch Works.io as a full-time technology venture, through an accelerator program for start-ups in Prague called StartUp Yard. Three months of support, development, and mentoring helped them turn a fun side project into a viable business. Having learnt more about building a business and entrepreneurship, they came back to the Works.io with renewed energy and recruited Eyal Zucker as co-founder to complete the team.
As Works.io grows into a tool for the art community worldwide, it continues to focus on the artworks and the people who make them. “I am rooting for the emerging artists who are taking risks, and really contributing to culture, by doing what they do. It’s so important that they can make a living from it somehow,” Abe says, continuing, “I just really want to build something that supports that core foundation of art, and especially the exciting young artists who are going to be the future of art." While he has difficulty anticipating all the ways Works.io will develop in the upcoming years, but with no lack of ideas, Abe and his team are off to a running start.