Art dot com exploring online art galleries

Internet has often been cast as a contradictory enemy of the traditional arts. It is believed that it undermines the film, book publishing and music while it also creates new avenues for its consumption. One form of art has found way through the wires of worldwide web and is in fact, thriving emerging and established artists through online representation. The visual arts are booming online.

According to a survey studied by The Guardian, the value of the online trade is now around £1.57bn and is likely to more than double by 2018. Experienced art collectors and emerging contemporary artists are both looking up to online art spaces as platforms of active circulation and exchange. In January, Rebecca Wilson, chief curator and director of artist development for Saatchi Art, moved to Los Angeles from London to work full time on the website’s projects. She agrees that the online art business has taken off.

Online art galleries are now opening up new avenues for the younger artists and modelling stronger networks for the established names. Financially speaking, 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. New art buyers feel that they can discover new art and potentially build a whole new collection through online transactions and without any limitations. In a fragmented art world, online art avenues seem to be a modem between the buyers, artists and the galleries. The research, by the  British Fine Art insurer Hiscox, found that while traditional galleries will survive, younger and first-time buyers are drawn to online sites. 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. Last year Amazon launched its own art portal and eBay now has a rival platform. Large contemporary art galleries are beginning to sell smaller works and limited editions online, with Gagosian offering a “click and buy” option and Hauser & Wirth setting up a shop webpage, which redirects you to a conventional gallery hotline. White Cube, the home of Damien Hirst’s work, has had a similar online “shop” for some time.

Shaishav Todi, who has recently started an online portal called Cupick for emerging Indian artists to connect with buyers and their potential audiences, feels that online galleries are providing artists with greater control over monetization of their work. Cupick is an extension of online art selling revolution started in the international market by the likes of RedBubble, Art Finder, Counter Editions and Eyestorm. Indian Art Collector and Saffron Art offer an interesting online portal for both artists and collectors with their catalogues designed for a niche market. Similarly, online portal Best College Art has been functional in selling quality art from emerging and new artists.

“Online art revolution isn’t necessarily going to affect the traditional gallery business but it has definitely changed the rule of the game. I am seeing artists being more experimental, fresh and daring on the Internet as opposed to the physical spaces of gallery. I think it has also to do with the medium of art evolving with the online presentation” observes Megha Kishore, an art history major turned art consultant.

Even though online spaces have boosted sales and media presence of artists and art galleries, many art professionals feel that clients still require the personal engagement with the gallerist and the artist too. The subversion of the gallery and corporate hierarchy is interesting as it cracks open the esoteric value of art but many like Megha feel that it would consistently require an equally active reach out by galleries in the physical world with initiatives that focus on the growth of the art understanding. A symbiotic relationship between the energies of online and offline space would be needed to build a more informed setup of art exchange.