Albert Reyes (via Boooom!)
The global recession has definitely affected art sales online and off. What will be interesting is to see how art sales evolve in a Web 2.0 environment after the recession is safely over. An article in the New York Times from 2007 notes, "New works, even in the six-figure range, are selling by digital image alone." We can expect that digital images will become more accepted as a medium for advancing sales in the art market. eBay continues to be the largest art marketplace but most of the art on eBay is sold for significantly less than other online auctions and galleries.
During the Internet frenzy of 1998-99, every major auction house and art gallery went online. This resulted in a saturation of the marketplace and only three years later online art galleries were folding. Although I don't have the statistics, it seems there was a revival in the online art market between 2004 and 2007, roughly paralleling the surge in offline art sales.
And here we are now in 2009--with new technologies and an abundance of sites that offer many angles on the art market. Some sites target the artists themselves, offering web tools to sell and market their work. Others are moderated online galleries where the artist must submit an application to gain entry. And lastly there are the sites that target collectors and represent the traditional art sector for high end art sales. Each type aims to fill a different niche. Let's look at some of the best online art stores, auctions, and galleries of 2009.
eBay art auction $$Low/Mid/High
eBay needs to be mentioned only because it is the largest art marketplace in the world. From 2003, a website called Elise.com gives a good analysis of eBay art sales. The major insight to take away from the analysis is that 90% of the art listings are under $100. Above $300 it becomes significantly difficult to sell art on eBay. Nonetheless, art selling for $5,000 and higher does occur.
My site, Escape into Life, arts and culture webzine, will in fact be using eBay for our arts auction. I chose eBay because it is the most recognized web-based auction system. I plan to do the marketing for the auction myself, and therefore I am not relying on eBay to provide me with all of my bidders.
Unless you've already developed a customer base on eBay, I would think simply jumping into the pool and trying to sell art would be a challenge. For a buyer, eBay is a mixed bag. You definitely need to comb through the listings. It doesn't filter out the best niche contemporary artwork for you, which a good online art store will do.
Artnet.com is the second biggest player in the online art market with more than 166,000 artworks by over 39,000 artists from around the globe. On the site you can search the inventory of 2,200 galleries in over 250 cities worldwide. In addition, there is a sleek online auction for works that range from $500 to $100,000.
The online Artnet magazine features interviews with artists and art reviews. There are also event listings and videos on the website. The combination of online magazine, auction, price database, gallery listings, and artist listings, into single functional, easy to navigate site deserves the highest praise.
Keep in mind though that the breadth of Artnet is sometimes overwhelming for the casual buyer. And the target audience is mainly collectors of fine art and arts dealers.
Mixed Greens $$$Mid
Another well-established online art gallery. Mixed Greens is a moderated online gallery, meaning one must be accepted into the gallery through an application process. Currently, the gallery represents 22 artists "at varying stages in their careers."
The clean site design makes it easy to browse the listings, and the limited number of artists helps to act as a filter for niche contemporary art. One of the exciting and different aspects of this website is that Mixed Greens puts on physical gallery exhibitions. Works for sale on the site range from $2,500 to $20,000.
College Art Online $$Low/Mid
College Art Online sells student artwork at affordable prices. The average price of artwork on the site is $250, but works can sell as high as $3,000. The site is not moderated, which means anyone can join.
I was impressed by the site design and navigation, large gallery images, and quality of work. The site says that it gives "art enthusiasts the chance to buy an original piece of art and collect works from artists who are hitting their prime in the art world."
As with most online art galleries, you can search for works based on color, size, medium, and price. Once you find something you like, you can add the work to your cart for the listed price or you can make an offer.
Artbreak is a community based online art gallery where artists can easily upload their images. Some work is for sale, other work is simply being shared with the world. The aim of the site is to make it easy for artists to sell their work commission-free.
The site says, "Artbreak is a democratically disruptive gallery and marketplace. It's purpose is to give independent artists everywhere a global audience and an opportunity to sell their work directly without commissions, galleries or representatives."
A large, random image changes regularly on the homepage and below are listings with thumbnails of "What's Hot" and "Brand New".
Artmo, art market online, features works from "the most distinguished and reputable art dealers." Similar to Artnet, Artmo has gallery pages showcasing a particular gallery's collection.
The Artmo Marketplace seeks to eliminate the disconnect between dealers and collectors. You can browse by artist or artwork. In some cases, the price is listed; otherwise you must request the price. It is also possible to make offers.
I would say that Artmo hints at the future of high end online art sales. The site is personable and not overwhelming; a simple way for collectors to view works, make offers, and purchase art without leaving their house. You can already see the Web 2.0 interface built into an online gallery for high end art.
Mobtal, portable art gallery, is a savvy membership based site, where artists can showcase and sell their work. Each level of membership gives an artist more tools and marketing opportunities on the site. Featured artists are prominently displayed at the top of each page. When you click on an artist's work, you find links relating to the artist such as profile, biography, resume, virtual exhibitions, news, events, and projects.
Most of the work on Mobtal sells for under $1000. You can also buy "M-cards" (wallpaper for your cellphone) of the art images.
One of the featured artists, Janet MacCallum, says, "Since joining Mobtal I have sold three paintings and have been recommended by one buyer to his friends via the M-card function. The M-card is a quick and efficient method of promoting my artwork and has already helped me line up some commissions!"
In addition, Mobtal has partnered with the The Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation to donate 10 for each artist membership.
Here are more of the best online art stores, galleries, and auctions of 2009:
Saatchi Online Salesroom
Photographers Limited Editions
New British Artists