Digital marketplace Bluethumb paints Australian artists a $50 million picture


Founded in 2012, the platform has facilitated $50 million in revenue for Australian artists. Bluethumb’s top-selling artist pocketed $2 million over 5 years.

Artist Sophie Lawrence sold 2,266 pieces through Bluethumb over the last five years. The Canberra-based painter has 7,548 followers and clocked up almost 310,000 profile views, making her Bluethumb’s most successful artist last year.

Lawrence describes her paintings as ‘large vibrant abstracts’ and says so far, Bluethumb has put $2 million in her pocket.

The platform that Lawrence and around 20,000 other artists use to sell their work, was founded by brothers Ed and George Hartley in 2012. To date, some 100,000 pieces have been sold through Bluethumb, and artists have received $50 million for their work.

“Everyone told us it was impossible,” says Ed Hartley, the co-founder and CEO of Bluethumb. “Established art galleries and those in the industry scoffed at the notion of buying art online, of treating all artists equally and allowing collectors to trust their own judgement. We thought it made sense and launched anyway.”

Ed and George Hartley co-founded digital art marketplace Bluethumb in 2011

His brother George Hartley is Bluethumb’s chief marketing and chief product officer. The company has two retail galleries, one in Melbourne, the city that George now calls home and the other is in Adelaide where the brothers grew up. Customers can go to the brick-and-mortar locations to view artwork before purchasing.

The pieces that Bluethumb sells are primarily originals created by local artists, the company says. They also sell some digital and print works. Many of the artwork pieces are modern in style. The website also features indigenous Australian art.

The sellers and the buyers

“We work with 20 of Australia’s most remote Aboriginal art centres to give you access to more Australian artists and their art than anywhere else in the world,” the Bluethumb website reads.

Blak Douglas is a First Nations artist who won the 2022 Archibald Prize for his painting Moby Dickens. Douglas offers some of his pieces for sale on Bluethumb.

There are also 320,000 other pieces of art available for purchase. Prices range from $171 to $30,000.

The brothers say they are on a ‘mission to democratise the Australian art world by making art more accessible and less intimidating to the average Australian.’ And that goes for those buying the pieces as well as those creating them.


The Hartleys point to Charlie Nanos, a former tradesperson who joined Bluethumb in 2021. Nanos has a heart condition that means he is unable to continue working in the trades. He is now one of the platform’s top 20 selling artists.

“I was a tradesman up until I got sick and then once I got through that and came home, I couldn’t do anything for a while. So I just did my art and it kept me busy while recovering. Bluethumb and the team at Bluethumb have given me the opportunities, outlet and support needed to chase my creative passions,” says Nanos.

It is stories like that drive the founders forward in their work to create a digital marketplace for sellers and buyers.

“We have sold over 100,000 original Australian artworks to everyone; from first-time art buyers to established collectors and Australia’s finest architecture firms,” says Ed Hartley.

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