Monday, 30 May 2016

Buying and Selling Art Online; a Win-Win Formula

Ken Shaw 

Statista, the statistics portal, estimates the value of the global online art market will reach a heady US$ 6.3bn in 2019.

This projection demonstrates an almost exponential increase when compared to Statista’s 2013 figure of US$ 1.57bn, climbing to US$ 2.64bn in 2014.

So what is it that’s fuelling this explosive growth?

In my opinion the main factors are:

  • Traditional bricks-and-mortar art galleries are realising that their future is online. 
  • Online galleries are enabling artists to advertise their work to a global audience. 
  • Art buyers no longer need to visit galleries; they can buy from their armchairs. 
  • Artists no longer need to give up 30 – 70% of sales in gallery commission fees. 

Of course growth of this speed comes with its own problems. For example, buyers who no longer need to fight their way through rain and cross-town traffic to see an artwork, now have to trust an online image. Will the on-screen texture and colours be as expected when the painting is delivered? 

For the artist there are pitfalls too. There is still a sizeable commission to pay to the online gallery in the event of a sale. The online gallery will also want to maintain a Chinese wall between buyer and artist to prevent direct sales. This means there is little chance of the buyer and artist developing a rapport. The cost for an artist of developing a website and dealing directly with buyers can be prohibitive.

Then there is the issue of time; how long will it take for a buyer in New York to receive the painting he has just bought from an artist in Paris? In the days of bricks-and-mortar galleries the buyer could simply pay and walk away with his new pride and joy.

At my own site, I have been tackling these problems since British artist, Ivy Burley, decided the way forward was to put her art online. Dealing with the last point first, artists can employ UPS or similar large logistics companies to ship art globally. Typically, a painting can be delivered fully insured in California or New York, to take two of our recent examples, within fifty hours of collection from our studio in England.

The problems of getting a fledgling website away from a place where all an artist can hear is the sagebrush rolling by, to somewhere it gets noticed, are formidable. Google Adwords has a solution to that problem, but of course these costs can mount exponentially too.

But when everything is considered, there is no long-term substitute for an artist to buying and developing their own website. This will allow the artist to freely communicate with buyers and offer a prompt and caring after-sales service in the event of problems. And emailing high-resolution and in-context images can easily overcome any concerns a potential customer might have regarding colours and texture. Finish all this off with free shipping and a fourteen-day no-quibble guarantee, and artists and collectors can have what I consider a win-win formula.

To comment on this article (or to send me an article you would like published here) email me here.

Check out my site at: to see more of my art.

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