Art is a strange fish when it comes to selling online. Difficult to really get a sense of experience or value in a digital-only realm. And hard to shift without hand-holding; guiding buyers through techniques, mediums, historic and cultural context (a theme close to my heart, more here).
When people do purchase, try detangling the logistics. Ever filled in a returns slip for a Giacometti, checked for chips and scratches, or refused a refund because the tags been pulled off? Net-a-Porter eat your heart out.
Regardless, art collectors are beginning to feel increasingly comfortable purchasing big ticket items online. The market’s up 24% to USD 3.2 billion, and people feel happier spending upwards of 10k – a point noted by Rachel Wilson, Director of Online at Saatchi Art.
Research Matter Of Form conducted for Tate mirrors the sentiment. 92% of online art buyers expect to spend again within 12 months, suggesting a trajectory that would see the eCommerce market value close to USD 10 billion by 2020.
We’re quite deeply invested in the topic. This January Matter Of Form finished a large scale project for the Affordable Art Fair, aiding a transformation that has seen them extend their offering from global events into global eCommerce. And they really do have an interesting mix of customers, ranging from first time buyers, enthusiasts and HNW’s looking for their next horse to back, as it were. Showpiece purchases mixed with guest-room acquisitions.
The big question is, will other art fairs such as Frieze, Basel or TEFAF move online? Simone De Pury notes (in his excellent piece in the Guardian), that information once only available to the inside elite and those ‘in the know’ will quickly catalyse art sales within the 10k to 2m buying bracket. There is little doubt that the category exists, and that the opportunity is growing.
Innovators have already set the scene at the lower end of the market, where disruption is rife. Sedition provides limited edition digital art for your flatscreen. Kuuva cycles your desktop background with the works of emerging illustrators. Artsy has seen prolific artists such as David Zwirner join, validating the medium. Art-i-Curate enables crowdsourced patronage. Just a few of countless new entrants.
But for us, the real success will be in how digital innovations affect the research, ‘experience’ and acquisition and at the top end of the market — where purchases are highly considered and a quick gimmick won’t fly.