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Gertrude: Art Through An App

January 10, 2024

A generic photograph of a woman holding a smartphoneIn an age of social media and instantaneous communication, promoting yourself as an artist is easier yet more difficult. Yes, you can get the word out quicker, but so can everyone else, leading to a bit of oversaturation. Therefore, even now, it can be difficult for young, emerging artists, some of them straight out of school, to make not just a name for themselves but a living as professional artists. But there’s an app lending a hand, connecting young arts graduates with potential buyers using an incredibly unassuming name.

In September 2023, the South London gallery The Sunday Painter, run by Harry Beer, Will Jarvis, and Tom Cole, launched Gertrude. According to Jarvis, Gertrude is a “bespoke, professional tool” that helps connect “artists, art industry professionals, and art buyers, new and established, enabling artists to launch, build, and sustain successful careers.” The app is named in honor of Gertrude Stein, the American writer who became known as a major arts patron and for hosting one of the most prolific Paris salons of the early twentieth century. She exhibited and collected the work of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Francis Picabia, among many others. It seems Gertrude (the app) updates the idea of the private salon. It feels like a social media site, with artists curating their respective pages where they can keep followers updated about new works. However, Gertrude is also an e-commerce platform for people to buy art themselves. According to the app’s creators, combining these two formats may help people become more comfortable patronizing their favorite artists. They hope that Gertrude will help bridge what they call “a cultural chasm where people don’t feel they are entitled to an opinion about art.” Having an app associated with a pre-existing gallery like the Sunday Painter provides it with pre-formed infrastructure and relationships. However, Gertrude just got another boost recently.

The New Contemporaries is a British arts organization that, since 1949, has been dedicated to supporting artists at the very beginning of their careers. Artists connected to the New Contemporaries include Anish Kapoor, David Hockney, Antony Gormley, and Damien Hirst. Members of the New Contemporaries seem to have great trust in Gertrude. Currently, 82 artists are using the app, with 55 of them being New Contemporaries exhibiting at the Camden Art Centre starting January 19th. While New Contemporaries exhibitions have often been where young, emerging artists in Britain can attract attention and sell some of their work. Gertrude’s aim is to help this process along. With arts funding getting slashed, particularly in Britain, many artists might need Gertrude now more than ever.

Apps like Gertrude allow buyers to bypass traditional galleries, dealers, and exhibitions, but that does not seem to be the point. According to The Sunday Painter, they plan to collaborate with other London galleries like Seventeen to promote the use of the Gertrude to get new audiences familiar and comfortable with buying art from a brick-and-mortar establishment. If Gertrude is truly new and innovative, then, of course, it deserves some attention. However, with many preexisting sites and apps like Artsy and Saatchi, it might be difficult for Gertrude to get a cut of the action.