Friday, July 15, 2011

Art buying online is reviving

Art sellers have been waiting for it to happen for many years. Sotheby’s tried online-only sales for lower-priced works in the late 1990s, but, like Artnet, it abandoned the initiative a few years later, convinced that buyers simply were not willing to pay four- or five-figure sums for art they had not seen in person.

In an insightful news report (A Resurgence in Art Buying Over the Web), Randy Kennedy of The New York Times, notes; “While online bidding and fairs and services like essentially serve as a digital bridge to bricks-and-mortar galleries and auction houses, Artnet officials say that much of the art market below a certain price level will soon operate almost entirely in the virtual realm.

Auctions on Artnet take place around the clock, eBay-style (though the lots close only on weekdays, so far), and the company vets sellers and relies on their photographs and descriptions of the provenance and quality of artworks. A buyer, who pays a 15 percent commission, usually sees only a single picture of the work and often doesn’t talk to the seller, who could be an art dealer, a private collector or an artist’s family. (Sellers pay a 10 percent commission.) After the auction, the buyer pays the seller, and the work is shipped.

“It’s one thing to point out to someone where they can find something and give them a gallery’s phone number,” said the company’s chief executive, Hans Neuendorf, referring to many other online art-selling services. “It’s another thing to make a sale online. That’s a sea change, in my opinion, and it’s happening.”

The CEO added that several factors led Artnet, a public company based in Berlin, with offices in New York, to venture back into the field. One was the comfort people have begun to feel with online commerce in general, he said. But the more important factor was the considerable increase in the last decade in the number of people who spend money on contemporary art as a pastime or as an investment.

(Information courtesy: 'A Resurgence in Art Buying Over the Web', Randy Kennedy of The New York Times)

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