Saturday, April 7, 2012

Online Art Fairs

An artist trying to sell her work in "the mid five figure range" wrote us: With the traction that the VIP Art Fair gained this year, I am hopeful that there is another way to reach collectors: online marketing. Certainly it's unproven territory, but I believe it's a new business model worth investigating.

We replied: Online art marketing has been around since at least 1996. In my 18 years on the Internet, I have seen major online galleries and other "art fairs" come and go. So far selling art work on line has not proven profitable for artists in general, although it often has been for promoters who charge artists fees for representation rather than relying on commissions from works sold.

So far, except for some rare quirky incidents, what has sold on line are low-priced decorative works, low-to-medium-priced images of celebrities (usually movie or sports stars) and work where the buyers already own or have personally seen work by that artist. There are online sales that are simply dummy sales -- artists and dealers "selling" to each other or to themselves in order to create the appearance of sales.

Missing from online marketing is not only the lack of a physical object for the potential buyer to relate to in a way he/she cannot do with a jpeg, and, where there is no dealer involved, the "stamp of approval" that most collectors require before making purchases that cost more than pocket change.

An online presence is a very important tool for exposing your work and perhaps getting potential buyers motivated to see it "in the flesh." But we are a very long way from significant sales at significant prices unless there is a substantial change in human nature or the advent of an Internet that can present objects in a thoroughly convincing virtual reality, perhaps accompanied by the ability to converse (also in virtual reality) with trusted dealers and experts.

As far as the alleged success of the VIP Art Fair, you might be interested in a review of it in Forbes Magazine.

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