Freedom to buy art wherever and whenever you want

BusinessDay | Alexia Walker

Although e-commerce has long revolutionised music and books, its impact on the art market is more recent. It was only a matter of time, though. Over the past 10 years, the move online has been one of the biggest trends in the art market, second to the inexorable rise of the art fairs. Cultural economist Clare McAndrew says: “The biggest driver is the wider acceptance of e-commerce. This is how collectors buy everything else, so why not art?” The online art market has matured and buyers have a few options. Traditional auction houses offer timed auctions where the bidding takes place online only and over a set period. Early adopters like Sotheby’s launched their bricks-and-clicks formats in 2004. There are also online-only auctioneers such as Paddle8 and Heritage Auctions, the largest online platform for art and collectibles.

Online marketplaces, such as online galleries and aggregators that offer fixed-price options, are gaining traction too. Artsy, a New York-based start-up, partners with international galleries, auction houses and art fairs to provide collectors a central destination to discover, buy and sell artworks from anywhere. Online shopping giants like Amazon and eBay have also entered the art market. Amazon Art was launched in 2013 offering more than 60,000 artworks supplied by more than 150 galleries and dealers. Artsy highlights some of the challenges facing the online art trade. It also exemplifies why the uptake has been slower than in other industries…read more

Image: Advancing: Telephone bids during an auction at Sotheby’s in London. E-commerce allows more flexible ways of buying art from a distance