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Online Art Fairs and Online Art Exhibits: Are they a valid addition to the physical art market?

by Brian Sherwin on 7/18/2011 2:16:20 PM

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,


Brian Sherwin


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Related Posts:

Thoughts on Selling Art Online: Find the time to promote your art online-- clock yourself and be creative!

Selling Fine Art Online: Combined Exposure

Selling Fine Art Online: FASO Mobile-friendly Artist Websites - the Future of Online Art Marketing is Now

Art and the Economy: Marketing art online is vital during an economic slump - take advantage of consumer traits and online behavior during a recession

Topics: art collectors | art gallery tips | art marketing | Brian Sherwin | FineArtViews | selling art online | selling fine art online | Think Tank 

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Phil Kendall
Buying original artworks online is an increasingly simple and viable way for people to improve the look of their home or office wall-space. Buying art with a keyboard and mouse is the new frontier of art collecting. It differs vastly from buying art during a visit to a bricks and mortar art gallery in the shopping centre or mall. You can look for and look at art comfortably at your pace, for as long as you like, without being pestered to buy, then finally locating that special artwork you like enough to buy.

The trouble is that most artists' websites are about the artist. They are about their career as an artist since pre-school to retirement [oh what a yawn]. They are about where and when they have exhibited [oh what a life they have]. There is the grandiose drivel about how they expect you to understand their art. The verbiage about why they paint: its so simple really they are artist]. Those stultifying paragraphs about their favourite brush, favourite paint, their technique etc.

Then there are their artworks taking for ever to load, giving no idea of their size or how much they are being sold for, no answers as to why one artwork is more costlier [but smaller] than another and no shipping costs being shown and so on. Their contact page remains un answered ten days later etc.

They have never looked at their website's from the user/viewer/browser's perspective...I have found some art I like enough and I want to buy it now!!! But I can't there is no shop page and there are no prices displayed.

So perhaps an online art gallery sale fair might just concentrate on the art and selling it?

Brian Sherwin
Phil -- Good points. Another person commented recently on a post stating that viewing art online is actually a better experience than viewing art in a print art magazine -- she mentioned the fact that few are critical of art being viewed in that manner. I thought that was an excellent point to make because some of the most vocal critics of viewing art online happen to be writers who work in print. LOL

I agree that some artists actually burden their efforts of selling by offering information that really only other artists may find of interest. Obviously you prove that not all artist want to read it either. Providing information is OK -- but yes, artists should try to make the work itself the focus on their website for the most part.

And yes... pricing should be consistent in most sitautions or else you leave the potential buyer scratching his or her head. If anything some form of explanation for price jumps might help -- but even then the average buyer is going to look at the price differences and still think, "What the hell?".

Phil Kendall
An interesting comment made by a fellow artist about my website via my contact page was quite interesting and the gist of it was:

"You and your site are about selling art whereas my [their] site is all about being an artist and that is all they want from it...PK you are plainly too commercial"

Like most online artists I sell enough art being just able to keep on going. The starving artist will not do for me.

The online art fair works a bit like the physical UK Affordable Art Fair. It is easier to participate online though.

As ever my typing exceeded my proof-reading skills in my original post for this dear reader

I again apologise its tunnel vision on screen 400 percent. Sort of hold down left control and rotate the mouse wheel and you will be there!


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