Feb 4, 2015 · 2 minutes

This week, the digital art marketplace Curioos launched iOS and Android apps that, by using the phone's camera and "augmented reality," let prospective online art buyers see what a piece would look like on their wall before purchasing it. It's a clever tool and precisely the type of app that makes headlines, thanks to its Jetsons-ish, "futuristic" functionality.

But Curioos is more than a fancy app. With the rise of digital art, which Curioos CEO Matt Valoatto tells me is the "huge next major art movement," his company is looking to pioneer a new digitally-native distribution and monetization model for its stable of young, digitally-native artists.

Unlike massive open marketplaces like Etsy, Curioos' team carefully vets submissions in order to establish and maintain its position as a leading voice in digital art.

"We’re getting around 150 requests from digital artists every week, and we are only accepting one every week," says CMO Clement Delangue. This is in line with a growing trend where sites like Bezar, a design marketplace recently launched by Fab's Bradford Shellhammer, emphasize careful curation over all-inclusiveness. In this way, Curioos operates more like traditional gallery representation. There's a measure of prestige that ideally comes with having one's work hosted on Curioos, which considers itself among the leading voices in the digital art community. Its Tumblr page has nearly 250,000 followers, which is no small thing. In exchange for offering artists reputational and promotional benefits -- and of course handling the ecommerce backend of sales -- Curioos takes a cut from each artist's sale. Again, as with traditional galleries, this cut is negotiated with each artist separately.

This hybrid model combines old world exclusivity with the convenience and global nature of the web. Artists no longer have to move to a big city to get noticed, though it still helps to be part of a community, online or otherwise. One of the best ways an artist can attract the attention of Curioos' curators is to be invited by an existing member.

Since its launch, Curioos has helped kickstart the careers of a number of artists, like Chaotic Atmosphere, a Swiss illustrator who began as a freelancer on the platform and today exhibits his work in physical galleries around the world. Or Floyd Grey, a minimalist fashion artist based in Kuala Lumpur who made his average yearly salary in just three days on Curioos.

"We distributed to the artists 7 times more revenue in January than six months ago," says Valoatto.

Valoatto and Delangue don't necessarily discourage established artists from seeking gallery representation, however they believe Curioos' model will soon supplant the old one.

"[Digital artists] are basically the new generation of artists that are born with the Internet and ecommerce and social networks," says Valoatto. "And I think at the end of the day they would rather have a lot of their work online as opposed to just one edition of their print from an old guy in a gallery. Selling online and selling on Curioos is not a first step. This is the model for digital art. "'Online' is already the 'real' art market."

[image via Curioos]