Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Amazon’s Virtual Art Market

The Internet has become a marketplace for virtually everything a person might wish to purchase.  The online sale of expensive contemporary art, however, has yet to take off. This may change if Amazon opens its “doors” to a new online art market. The recent New York Times article by reporter Randy Kennedy, “Amazon is Poised to Re-Enter Web Art Market,” discusses this issue.
As the article describes, Sotheby’s and Artnet both have tried and failed at the online sale of artworks back in the late 1990s; at the time, it appeared that buyers were not yet ready to pay the five or six figure prices for works they had not viewed in person. Now, however, a new player has entered the field: Amazon.  According to The New York Times, Amazon has been in discussion with various galleries regarding the proposition of offering contemporary and other fine art in its virtual marketplace.
At this point in time it is unclear whether Amazon will go through with this art venture. The Art Newspaper reports that an Amazon spokesperson has stated that Amazon has “no comment” regarding this plan. A number of the galleries involved, however, have revealed that the sales might begin this month, and that Amazon will be charging the seller a commission of 5-20%. 
While it is yet to be determined what sorts of art—lower-end or higher- end sales—Amazon will focus on, surveys indicate that collectors are becoming increasingly willing to buy online. One survey, released in April by the international insurance company Hiscox, reveals that, of the upwards of 200 collectors questioned, approximately two-thirds had purchased art online and that a quarter had spent $75,000 or more on works from online sellers or for which they had only seen the JPEGS sent by galleries. Should Amazon go through with its art venture, it would be joining up with other established players in the online market, such as Artsy, Paddle8, Artnet, and Artspace.
The New York Times’ article describes how “The growth of online sales has been fueled primarily by three factors: a broadening base of art collectors around the world; a much greater willingness by those people, both veteran collectors and newcomers, to trust online transactions and buy works after seeing only pictures of them; and a huge amount of inventory in the storehouses of galleries, as a growing number of art fairs and other exhibitions leads to more artists making ever more work.” Does a wider web-based market further commodify artworks? If Amazon succeeds with its online sale of artworks, how could such an economic shift impact the art market? Trends in art sales? The Auction House? Could the virtual art marketplace change how collectors perceive, and why collectors collect, works of art?
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on
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