How Meural Works: Part II, Acquiring Art

A three part series on the Meural art library

In the first installment of How Meural Works, we dove into how we choose the art on our platform, as well as how we contextualize it. In this part, we’ll take you through how an artwork gets on our platform, and what that means for the artist.

Acquiring art takes time, money, and expertise, and building a comprehensive art library is a mammoth endeavor. Even the largest cultural institutions—LACMA, for example, or the National Gallery—are expected to present just a slice of the canon. You might go to the Rijksmuseum and expect to see some of your favorite Dutch painters, but not all of them. Through our own research, and suggestions from our community, we create a wonderfully long list of art from the past and present we must have. Our list grows every day (we currently feature nearly a thousand artists), and it doesn’t stop at the canon and art world heavy-hitters. It includes the work large cultural institutions rarely have, such as local artists, cinemagraph artists, graphic designers, and nature photographers.

Backcountry Hut and Starry NightJohn Doogan
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So, now that we have a terrifyingly long list of art we want—how do we actually go about getting it? Well, there are quite a few challenges we face in doing this, whether a work is from 100 years ago (and thus is in the public domain), or it’s contemporary (as in, the paint is still drying).

Even when a work is in the public domain, and okay to photograph and publish, it isn’t that easy (or, for that matter, free). Take the Mona Lisa, for example. Google the Mona Lisa and you’ll be overwhelmed by images that vary drastically in color, saturation, lighting—even proportion. But which one is most faithful to the original?

Google image search results for 'Mona Lisa'

For our purposes, a physical work must be museum-quality, meaning it has been professionally photographed and digitized. So, even after we’ve marked a work as a “must-have,” we have to find the best image, and then work with the photographer or rightsholder to acquire it.

And when the artist is alive, or the estate still controls the works (i.e. it’s not in the public domain), we pay. Fairly compensating artists has been fundamental to our mission since the beginning; it’s something we’re simply unwilling to budge on.

Elevating our collection, every day

Working in this way means that—like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Kindle Unlimited—we’re able to offer the works in our collection for a time-limited period. If we don’t have an artist or work you want right now, it’s likely they are just a few lines down on our wonderfully long list of art to get.

This flexibility allows us to continually create partnerships with some of the most cutting edge providers around—a list that includes National Geographic, Curioos, Magnum Photos, The Lumen Prize, and Flixel. It also allows us to get some of our community’s most requested artists—like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, and Keith Haring (coming soon). This means that if a work or artist leaves one day, you can expect something equally exciting to appear.

PhilistinesJean-Michel Basquiat
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It’s important to highlight that the dynamic nature of our platform doesn’t mean the collection isn’t growing—on the contrary. Each week we spend hours upon hours adding art that will forever be there for you to enjoy. (Like your favorite music platform, we expose our community to an entire catalogue of art.)

Because we fairly compensate artists, continually create new partnerships, and accept only the best digital reproductions of public domain work, we have a subscription cost. The majority of this fee goes right back to the artist or the rightsholder. The rest is used to build a platform that is comprehensive, faithful to history, and, in so many ways, unprecedented. In other words, without your payment, what we do would simply not be possible.

Stay tuned for next week’s final installment, in which we will be announcing a major new feature of our art library.

Have a question about any of the above? Don’t hesitate to get in touch! Send us an email or tag us on social media (@meetmeural) and we’ll get back to you soon.

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