Stodgy static artwork won’t do for the lobbies of Marriott’s tech-forward Aloft brand. The hotel chain is installing a new moving-image art platform in 300 Aloft properties across America.
Tel Aviv-based Niio allows clients like Marriott to choose curated collections of digital art from 1,500 member artists, galleries, libraries and collectors in order to provide a frequently updated videocast on connected display devices via monthly subscription.
“Other content sectors have gone digital — music on iTunes, movies on Netflix and books on Kindle. We saw the same opportunity for art,” says cofounder and CEO Rob Anders, a Londoner living in Israel for the past 20 years.
“We’re generating so much noise around ourselves that we need to find a positive alternative, a meaningful digital experience that connects people again and starts conversations,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
“Niio is changing how people consume art in hotels, public spaces, offices, healthcare facilities, shopping malls and restaurants. We turn interior and exterior walls into living canvases connected to artists and galleries around the world.”
There’s no limitation on scale. Last Christmas, Niio outfitted Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor with 70-meter screens for a dynamic outdoor art exhibition that won a Lux Magazine Travel & Tourism award for Best Creative Lighting Program in Asia in 2019.
To celebrate the opening of its Hong Kong office in March, Niio did a moving art showcase at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel.
Its digital art collections are now appearing in Hong Kong International Airport, and the company is working with six property-management conglomerates to create public art experiences.
“On one public thoroughfare, every hour the advertising billboards become an art experience for five minutes. People just stop and watch the art,” says Anders.
Niio, which started commercial operations only in 2018, has clients across the globe.
Shared workspace provider Meet in Place has put Niio displays in meeting rooms across its six locations in New York, London and Tel Aviv. Ingeniously, the same framed screen can also be used for business presentations.
“We work with architects and designers around the world. Instead of black screens in the beautiful spaces they design, a constant display of moving images makes an amazing difference, and the changing artwork is also a conversation-starter,” says Anders.
“Other content sectors have gone digital — music on iTunes, movies on Netflix and books on Kindle. We saw the same opportunity for art.”
In hospitality, clients include the Marriott, Crowne Plaza and Fattal chains as well as Tel Aviv’s Norman and Rothschild 22 boutique hotels.
The Norman has projected Niio collections in its lobby, gardens, bar and outside walls, and will be the first hotel to install Niio digital art in every guest room.
In 2015, Anders and cofounder Oren Moshe, an award-winning product and design expert with 18 years of experience in technology, art, design and digital culture, saw a trend of more digital work being created. But there was a lack of tools to manage, store, distribute and display these works.
The partners started by creating and distributing free software to accomplish these tasks.
Once they built up a community of artists using their tools, and an aggregation of artworks, they developed rights-management, delivery and display technologies to get those works out to a broad audience on a monetized platform.
“Traditionally the art world has been very exclusive. We support the exclusive, but to reach a wider audience we created a subscription model starting at $199 per month for businesses, hospitality locations and public spaces where we can showcase premium digital art to more people,” says Anders. Private homeowners are a secondary target audience.
Niio’s cofounders believe their platform appeals to many people who’ve never felt engaged by art. “Putting something on a screen — one or multiple screens, portrait or landscape, even interactive — makes it easier and more immersive,” says Anders.
Niio’s sustainable business model has proven popular with artists, galleries, museums and collectors around the world, including established and emerging Israeli artists.
“We brought on some of the top collectors and we work with 20 to 30 curators. We now have 2,500 artists on a waiting list from 40 countries,” says Anders.
Niio’s beginnings and future
Anders and Moshe chose the name “Niio” to evoke certain art periods, like neo-classicism, as well as the futuristic character Neo portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the “Matrix” trilogy. In the company logo, the stylized letters have a digital, infinite look.
The company was bootstrapped until a pre-seed round in 2015; institutional investors came aboard in 2017 led by Entrée Capital of Herzliya and PICO Partners of Jerusalem. About 20 people are employed at Niio.
“We have our main office in Tel Aviv and operations in Hong Kong and in the United States, primarily focusing on New York,” says Anders. Niio recently staged a giant digital art projection on New York City’s West End Avenue.
Clients can choose between the Niio ArtConsole, a professional 4K media box that turns any screen or projector into a dedicated art display, or a dedicated Niio Philips ArtDisplay ready to hang on the wall and show a videocast 24/7.
“Today, revenue in a lot of hospitality, retail and healthcare environments is experience-driven,” says Anders. “We want to enable a break from the digital noise – to create a moment of reflection. That is the magical essence of what we’re doing.”
Some forward-thinking designers are finding ways to integrate Niio into their creations. For example, Tel Aviv furniture designer Arik Ben-Simhon is working on putting Niio display screens into coffee tables, wet bars, wall mirrors and bookshelf units.