How art gets generated.
The news that 20×200, the site set up by Jen Bekman for people to buy affordable art prints online, is now offline and struggling to secure new funding is certainly not great for the company. It’s also a wake up call for the large number of online art selling platforms that have launched in recent years and for their venture capital partners that are betting pretty heavily that selling art online is a recipe for success.
As the Deloitte and ArtTactic report I mentioned in yesterday’s post discussed, more than 300 online art ventures have been established across the world in recent years, which on some counts, should be good very news for art buyers. As the report finds, “new online transaction platforms add liquidity to the art market and will broaden the scope and depth of art market data available, which in turn will improve transparency and facilitate more accurate art valuations.”
In fact, there are other benefits. Since sites selling art online are unencumbered by the physical infrastructure of the traditional gallery or auction house, they can also make their commissions lower and the whole business of buying art much cheaper and more accessible. Buyers can discover new art and potentially build a whole collection from the comfort of their own homes, not the occasionally intimidating setting of a gallery. In the highly fragmented art market, bringing art and art buyers together wherever they are in the world is no bad thing either.
But that will only work if buyers are prepared to sacrifice the one thing that is central to the way that people traditionally buy art – the chance to see it and experience it in the flesh first. That’s something that many people will be reluctant to do, particularly with big-ticket purchases. Although sites such as Artspace and Artsy also drive buyers towards physical galleries, not all online art platforms facilitate in-person art purchases too.
Without the ability to sell pricer art works, many start-up art platforms are forced to sell cheaper art works in enough volume to prosper on a diet of slim online commissions, an area where 20×200 seems to be struggling..
I recently moderated a Google hangout for Skate’s Art Research that discussed the challenges facing online art platforms with Chris Vroom, co-founder and chairman of Artspace, Osman Khan, managing director of Paddle8, and Sebastian Cwilich, president and COO of Artsy. Osman conceded that although people might only buy art online without seeing it first at lower price points today, “over time, you can move that price point up as you develop a more established collector base, as collectors understand the validity of your brand and as you become a more established market place.”
He added that by offering something that is partly an informational channel for buyers to explore new art and artists, partly a curatorial service and partly a distribution channel, collectively online art platforms are ”cultivating a new previously untapped community of art buyers” and that “a rising tide lifts all boats”.
Hopefully he’s right about the rising tide, but given 20×200′s problems, it seems pretty certain that not all the online art selling platforms launching or already active today are going to make it.
By Kathryn Tully, Forbes.com, 3/30/13
For the original article, please click here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryntully/2013/03/30/would-you-buy-art-online/