The internet has formed a whole new world and opened us up to new possibilities. Online sales and e-commerce are evergrowing and this has enabled people to buy everything from a small notebook to an expensive one-of-a-kind piece of jewellery. This space is growing and now includes a plethora of industries, the newest one to join the club is the art industry. Art is one of the last players in the creative industry to join the sales platform and the increasing online art sales indicate the unbridled growth of this new medium of sale. This change in attitude comes as a pleasant surprise because it improves accessibility to art and gives a bigger platform for creators to be featured.
Places like London which are known for their art galleries and is estimated that more people from the United Kingdom visit museums and art galleries than attending a premier league match. Institutions like Tate Modern have been the mothership for most contemporary art lovers and attracts more than 5.3 million visitors in a year. The art industry is valued at £40bn and buying art is seen as a status symbol and a norm in modern social settings. Tapping into e-commerce platforms and tapping into a wider audience only increases the valuation of this already huge market. The online art market is said to be growing by 20% every year with a record number of people using online platforms. More art is being sold online in a month than what is sold from established galleries in a year. This is probably due to the large reach that online internet has. The importance of physical galleries are diminishing as more and more art is being viewed online than as an original. This is the reason why galleries are increasingly investing more time, work and money on their online collection. They have a large number of curators working on their online image because that is the future and is growingly having more relevance than physical exhibitions.
Before the online world, there was a huge market that visited art fairs and these fairs recorded significantly more sales than galleries. Brick and mortar galleries are losing significant audience and this is true of most of the galleries around the world. Except for the big institutions like MoMA or Louvre, the art market saw smaller gallery spaces and a lot of art galleries even shut down their operations.
The online art market has recently seen even growing traction of the elite buyers by promoting fine art from big names. The website Artsy began the trend by promoting original Andy Warhol artwork and this goes away from the general narrative of the internet being used to sell cheap things. In 2012 Christie’s sold a painting called ‘October on Cape Cod’ created by the infamous American painter Edward Hopper through an online auction for a staggering $9.6 million. This a clear indication that the online scene is not reserved for the middle market alone. A lot of art gallerists and curators are extremely surprised at the number of online sales that occur because traditionally buying artwork without ever seeing it in real life was an unthinkable gamble. Statistics from insurance company Hiscox indicate that 90% of the galleries use only digital images before selling art to a client.
One major challenge that online platforms like Artfinder have reported is the difficulty to translate the physical beauty of the artwork into a digital image but the simple accessibility feature of their art makes it bearable. The reason the online market still seems profitable is the fact that having an art collection when it is affordable, is a very addictive experience. The more people work on more user-friendly websites, the market extends even to the art collectors who are more than 65 years old. So tech-savviness does not make a huge dent on the purchase of art. The offline and online art world are exclusive institutions but rather work somewhat in tangents. Though there is an increasing audience for the convenience of online sales, there will always remain a set audience for galleries and museums and there will always remain artworks that cannot be sold online. This is especially the case with the top tier of the social division. Though it’s not a very large market to consider, it is very broad in terms of the capital involved in these transactions.
Physical galleries have physical restrictions which means they can display only 10-15 artists at any given moment. Bigger galleries with wider artist collections are too big and boring and give the buyers a very claustrophobic experience. The atmosphere in these closed, clean galleries doesn’t make for the most organic and conducive atmosphere for art appreciation. This experience also adds a level of apprehension towards art because the experience seems rather pretentious to the normal buyer.
Selling art online helps rid the art world of a lot of these apprehensions. It also gives a wider scope to practising art as a profession because of the huge platform it provides. The choices that the online market gives is incomparable to the ones available in physical galleries. These online sites also help close the socio-economic gap in the form of representation in the art field. By inviting art from anywhere and everywhere, websites are helping the much-needed representation that artists from marginalised communities require.
There has also been a general acceleration in the number of art buyers in India. The online art market especially has seen a boost. There is still a lot of untapped potential but this platform has been discovered by small-time artists who are using the opportunity very well. Artists like F.N.Souza, Tyeb Mehta, Bijay Biswal and Solomon R are registered with many online galleries and are very optimistic about its growth.
The art industry still has a long way to go especially in India to create a concrete impact but the online market is definitely the future that artists and art lovers deserve. At the end of the day, the objective is to find something that you love and appreciate and if that is possible from behind a screen, why the apprehension