Over the past calendar year, as the pandemic raged and denizens of the art world retreated into their homes, online auctions and remote collecting became both the norm and a genuinely lucrative pastime. Although many in the art world are craving the energy of large fairs, the frisson of a gallery opening and the charge of haggling over an exquisite canvas in person, it has come to pass that digital art world innovations are also here to say. A new report by the ART+TECH Collector’s Edition found that 80% of its responding collectors had bought art online at least once, and that 9 out of 10 collectors prefer to see prices displayed while buying art online.
This, of course, makes a great deal of sense. In a world in which many are used to the seamless efficiency of services like Amazon Prime, the art world’s often opaque attitude towards pricing transparency can feel outdated and out of place. Similarly, collector respondents to the ART+TECH survey said that galleries should streamline their websites to make them more compatible with the age of digital browsing and shopping. If people fall in love with something, they want to make it theirs fast.
Interestingly, 78% of respondents to the survey who had purchased art online had not physically seen the work before going through with the purchase, but this seems in keeping with the way other commodities are bought and sold these days; even pets can be purchased online.
However, as successful as digital innovations in the art world have doubtlessly been 2/3 of users in all the sales formats surveyed by ART+TECH said that they would enjoy a form of personal, real-time communication during the art buying process. After all, no matter how well-designed a website is, it’s no match for a well-informed gallery employee with a winning smile and time to kill.