This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
When VIP Art Fair launched in January 2011 the media billed it as the "World's first online art fair". Obviously it was not exactly the first online art fair in the sense that independent artists and even some art galleries have had their own style of online art fairs within the last decade -- long before VIP Art Fair existed. It is a classic example of how uninformed members of the media can re-write history. That aside, VIP Art Fair was promoted well and I would go as far as to suggest that it opened more than a few minds concerning the potential the Internet has as an addition to the physical art market. However, a question still remains: Are online art fairs, and online art exhibits for that matter, a valid addition to the physical art market? I think so.
VIP Art Fair, which was founded by Jane and James Cohan, has continued to spur interest in the potential for selling and exhibiting art online among art world professionals who once scoffed at the idea of marketing art online. The concept is still met with skepticism by some art-related professions-- specifically art market traditionalists who happen to be art critics, curators, or gallery owners. However, due to the economic struggles of our times many within the mainstream professional art community are starting to warm up to the idea of selling and promoting art online. I for one think that this interest will grow steadily-- it is a twist of fate that we have the recession to thank for that.
As art gallery doors continue to close due to economic hardships the ones that survive are constantly looking for ways to adapt and thrive. That often means embracing technology that the mainstream gallery world-- in general-- has neglected in the past. Art dealers are learning what professionals from other markets already know -- that being, a good business person will learn to adapt to economic and societal changes and consider all possibilities in order to sustain oneself in the market. It involves more than just saying, "I can adapt.". In other words, the business savvy gallery owner will truly explore non-traditional paths within the art market -- and will place his or her traditionalist pride aside long enough to really observe the potential of the Internet.
These years of recession have shaped the art world -- or have at least opened minds that were once solidly closed to utilizing the Internet as a tool for marketing and selling art. In that sense, gallery owners are learning what artists have long known -- that art can, and has been, sold over the Internet. In that sense, online art fairs and online art exhibits are an addition to the art market that deserves to be explored. There is no reason to spit in the face of potential profit. Profit is profit no matter how the transaction is made.
I predict that at some point in the future these online art venues will become a standard part of the larger art market. Those who are slow to embrace this shift today may find it hard to catch up in future -- in the same way we have observed brick & mortar art galleries rush to establish an official website presence. The professional art world has been slow to embrace the Internet in general. In that sense, I'd suggest that it is better for a gallery owner to be a pioneer of this direction of art marketing than to sit around nay-saying.
Can an online art fair or online art exhibit replace the experience of a physical art fair or brick & mortar art exhibit? No. I don't think anyone would suggest otherwise. That said, online initiatives-- such as an online art fair-- can cultivate exposure and result in artwork being sold by establishing opportunities that are 'outside the box' of the traditional art market. These ventures can also break down the barrier of distance by introducing art buyers to artists and art galleries that they may not have experienced directly. After all, an art buyer may not be willing to travel overseas to a physical location for an art fair or exhibit -- but the same buyer will likely be interested in checking out an online version of the same art fair or art exhibit.
This form of online connection with art buyers will be more important in the future as younger art collectors rise to become major collectors within the global art market. Point blank -- just because some individuals do not view online art fairs, online art exhibits, or selling art online as valid today does not mean that it won't be considered a standard tomorrow. I can remember when people thought e-Commerce in general would flop -- today it is a standard for consumers worldwide. Times change... markets change.
In closing, I realize that professionals within the art world will continue to debate the positives and negatives of online art fairs, online art exhibits, and the very concept of selling art online. However, I think the numbers speak highly of the direction art and commerce is going. The fact that so many artists embrace the Internet as a way of marketing and selling art should be viewed as a sign of what is to come. Artists continue to lead the charge in this direction. Are online art fairs, and online art exhibits for that matter, a valid addition to the physical art market? I think so -- and for everyone else all I can say is that it is best to be prepared.
Take care, Stay true,