Art Market
A New Platform Is Selling Original Artworks by Notable Artists for under $500
Kristy Luck, Untitled (Fireworks), 2017. Courtesy of Flat File.

Kristy Luck, Untitled (Fireworks), 2017. Courtesy of Flat File.

Veronika Pausova, Fishermen, 2017. Courtesy of Flat File.

Veronika Pausova, Fishermen, 2017. Courtesy of Flat File.

This summer, two identical twin sisters—one in the tech business, the other a painter—launched a new online venture that almost seamlessly combines their areas of expertise. The result is Flat File, an online platform that sells unique works on paper by emerging and established artists.

Corydon Cowansage (the artist of the pair) initially had ambitions to open a brick-and-mortar gallery in New York—a fraught proposition, to say the least. Over the winter holidays last year, she talked it over with her sister Cadran, a software engineer with San Francisco’s Y Combinator (a seed-funding resource for start-ups). “I majored in art in college, and Cadran majored in computer science,” Corydon explains. “We’ve always been similar in a way, but our interests are very opposite.”

Together, they realized that a digital platform could be a way to leverage their own backgrounds and contacts, without investing in a physical space. “It enabled us to experiment, with low overhead,” Corydon says. “That opened up a lot of possibilities that wouldn’t otherwise have been available to us.”

With additional help from their respective partners, Corydon and Cadran started Flat File (its name refers to the multi-leveled drawer often used by artists to organize their archives). Corydon handles curation and outreach, while her sister handles the site architecture and the technical side of things. The goal was to broaden the field of potential art collectors, and reach people who had, for whatever reason, been scared off by the process. “How do we get people interested,” Corydon wondered, “and give them access to this universe?”

Jennifer Lee, Untitled, 2017. Courtesy of Flat File.

Jennifer Lee, Untitled, 2017. Courtesy of Flat File.

Sophie Larrimore, Orange Towel, 2016. Courtesy of Flat File.

Sophie Larrimore, Orange Towel, 2016. Courtesy of Flat File.

The answer was a simple, intuitive platform that directly connects artists with buyers. (Flat File takes a 40 percent commission, but also handles shipping costs.) Each Monday afternoon, a trio of new available works goes live on Flat File. These range from drawings to mixed-media compositions to paintings on paper, almost exclusively priced at less than $500, with many pieces falling far below that. At the time of writing, the site features a drawing by Jason Silva for $200 and a colored-pencil composition by Laurie Nye for $250.

Importantly, none of the featured works are editions or prints, and almost all of the featured artists are regularly showing at galleries in New York and beyond. Flat File has sold several gouache-on-paper works by Julie Curtiss (also seen recently at 106 Green); a drawing by Roger White (represented by Rachel Uffner Gallery) and GaHee Park (whose paintings are on view now at Motel in Brooklyn); watercolors of poodles and humans by Sophie Larrimore; and a whimsically erotic acrylic painting by Kyle Vu-Dunn (whose recent exhibition at Sardine was spotlighted in the New Yorker).

Much of the art available through Flat File is scaled in the range of 11-by-9 inches—which also pushes accessibility, given the high cost of professional framing.  

This combination of high-caliber talent and and a modest price point makes Flat File fertile ground for impulse buys. (“I myself have to use a lot of self-control,” Corydon jokes. “I literally want everything.”)

While the site operates with a six-month consignment period, many of the featured works are snapped up shortly after being spotlighted. A $400 painting might sound extravagant, but it’s also dangerously tempting—a relatively small price to pay for something you love, that lasts.

Scott Indrisek is Artsy’s Deputy Editor.