As of last week one can officially “Shop Art” on Amazon Art (http://www.amazon.com/b/?node=6685269011), Amazon’s new cyber art market that includes all of its traditional search features; one can now use Amazon to browse artwork for sale by Featured Artist, Department, Subject, Style, Price, Frame Type, Size, Orientation, Color, and—of course—Amazon Prime eligibility.
Patricia Cohen of The New York Times reports on how customers can now use this online retailer to purchase original and limited-edition works of art from more than 150 dealers and 4,500 artists, with prices ranging from $10 to $4.85 million. As Cohen reports in her article “Amazon Re-Enters Online Art Market,” Peter Faricy—VP for the Amazon Marketplace—has stated that “Amazon Art gives galleries a way to bring their passion and expertise about the artists they represent to our millions of customers.” Could it be possible that online art sales will become the new norm?
While the ability to purchase a piece high-end artwork—say, a Warhol—from the comfort of one’s home does hold a certain appeal, there are many potential pitfalls. As archaeologist Charles Stannish (Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology; Professor at UCLA) points out, “You take away that gatekeeping function of museums and auction houses, of course it opens it up to abuse”. A recent example is seen in last month’s eBay auction—by two sellers—of the “real” Schindler’s list. The opacity of online auctions always should trigger warning bells and flashing signs of “Buyer Beware.”
What implications does the growth of cyber art sales have for the perceived value of works of art, or for the networks of illicit trade? Beyond matters of legal title to artwork, issues of authenticity are sure to arise. Amazon, for instance, is not providing an “ironclad guarantee” of authenticity; as Amazon spokesman Erik Fairleigh has stated, the company is “working with prestigious galleries and dealers” to ensure quality, and will investigate any potential problems and “take appropriate action.” A skeptical eyebrow ought to be raised in response—what sorts of “potential problems” should we expect? And what sorts of repercussions? A broadened cyber art market may indeed bring more attention to artists and greater accessibility of art to millions, but it also provides a forum in which cases of fraud and illicit sales can grow exponentially.Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.