Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Art Market Crisis: Galleries NEED to Embrace the Internet... and eCommerce!

Art Market Crisis: Galleries NEED to Embrace the Internet... and eCommerce!

One of the critical problems facing the art world is the fact that many art dealers continue to play by the rules of old during times of economic crisis. They often fail to adapt in a meaningful way and roll on as if nothing had happened. Unfortunately, something has happened-- the economy is in a state of peril. Current economic woes have cast a shadow over the art world. These concerns have turned to fear-- and that fear has turned to paranoia in some circles. Some have suggested that if the economy continues to worsen we will see hundreds of brick & mortar galleries close throughout the world. Thus, the time to adapt to this dire market is now! Art dealers need to accept and utilize alternative forms of commerce-- including eCommerce.

Businesses owners must truly adapt in order to sustain themselves during times of economic struggle. This translates to laying off staff, adjusting prices, OR taking some initiative by utilizing different paths of commerce that may be foreign to theie business structure. Selling art is a business-- when business is rough you either count your losses or close your doors. In other words, art dealers need to discover new ways to keep their doors open during difficult times. They need to take note of the positive change that eCommerce has spurred for other types of business. For many art dealers that will involve braving the art market frontier of the internet that has been ridiculed by certain circles of the art world since the 1990s. My opinion is that eCommerce may allow some galleries to keep their doors open during times of economic despair while offering alternative funding during the best of times. Art dealers must adapt to this extension of the global market.

Businesses have learned to adapt to specific market situations by utilizing the internet and eCommerce. Unfortunately, many art dealers tend to hide themselves within a protective bubble of fantasies that dictate that the structure of the art market is without fault and must never change. You can observe the attitudes created by that bubble in how certain circles of the art world have been stubborn about utilizing the internet and eCommerce. Certain individuals want the dynamics of the art market to be etched in stone. Unfortunately, that attitude is why many businesses fail in general. To put it bluntly, when it comes to business nothing is etched in stone.

In order to adapt to a difficult market a business must truly adapt. This is accomplished by exploring different manners of commerce. Lack of initiative, ambition, and the ability to accept changes in how business can be conducted has cast doom on many businesses and it is also why a gallery can end up closing its doors for the last time. This is why it is vital for art dealers to accept eCommerce in order to expand their market. With little effort an art dealer can introduce his or her represented artists to the global art market 24/7. That is the amazing thing about eCommerce-- when the gallery is closed for the night and the art dealer is sleeping a collector overseas may very well request to purchase a piece. From there being practical about secure payments and shipping are the only steps left within the context of the deal.

So how can art dealers utilize eCommerce in order to stabilize their business during difficult economic times? How can they obtain alternative cash flow in order to keep their doors open? It is simple really. By utilizing eCommerce meshed with social networking art dealers can represent more artists-- including emerging artists with affordable prices. An art dealer could technically represent hundreds of artists online with ease while focusing on his or her core artists in the physical gallery space. In other words, an art dealer can represent his or her core artists (primary representation) in the physical space of the gallery while representing others (secondary representation), as well as their core artists, online. This would allow art dealers to take on less established artists so that they can offer affordably priced art to the global market during hard economic times. It would also be a source of alternative income when the market is more stable. By utilizing the internet and eCommerce an art dealer can keep his or her business open to the world 24/7. The technology is here. Use it!

Links of Interest:

Do Galleries Need eCommerce?

eCommerce Can Work For Artists

Why Art Sites Work

Art and the Internet: The Artists Are Here. When will Galleries Participate?

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Donald Frazell said...

actually, there is another option, though it certainly can be done through ecommerce as well. Showing quality stuff, you know, ART, and then more people will come in, your base is very small, ex art students with some disposable cash they no longer have. Do something about humanity, and jsut maybe you will get some sales. open the window, see the real world, and let the fresh air, and intelligent people, in.


self taught artist said...

It would be great if a gallery would post a comment about this, especially one that has integrated their brick and mortar w/ a successful e-commerce site. Do you have any examples of such places?

I wonder if Gagosian Gallery, or Sperone Westwater make a dent via their online galleries, they are certainly solid sites though not exactly e-commerce (more a portfolio for existing collectors?)

Change is good, even if it causes some immediate deconstruction, maybe some galleries need to get weeded out. I know of a few artists out there who were once gallery up and coming stars but got so tired of work getting lost, damaged and otherwise mishandled that they went the ebay way, the blog way, even the indian reservation flea market way and they are doing great. Galleries are invaluable for artists and buyers but in my humble opinion things need to change in a big way for all involved. I personally am really challenged when it comes to wanting to submerge myself in the gallery world. While I enjoy being in galleries, there is a disconnect at times that I find terribly frustrating. E-commerce is the carrot dangling in front of my forehead right now.

Lastly, when I inquire how it's going in the two galleries I am in, I hear 'deadly quiet'. These galleries do have online presence but more as old school sites. Time, effort and $$wise doesn't it make sense to integrate a strong virtual presence too?

I'm enjoying your posts on e-commerce and hoping you continue to expound on this, there is much to learn!

self taught artist said...

so the brick and mortar places are 'deadly quiet', people online are selling and selling a lot! Places like Tiny Showcase are a perfect example of working e-commerce sites. I see artists selling hundreds of dollars of art each week online via different avenues. The trick is making yourself known in the right ways. I'm not there yet but I'm working on it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think any major gallery has taken the ecommerce route yet. Most of them do use Artnet but they often only put secondary works on that site. Artnet is not the most appealing site to make connections on and I think their ecommerce boils down to simple email interactions which should not be considered ecommerce compared to sites that have paypal options and other options to finalize the sell. I know that smaller galleries have and that they obtain most of their profit that way. The big guys see it as a waste of time. They might think twice when their doors close. Thanks for pointing this out.

Anonymous said...

I'll add that the idea about 'testing the water' with emerging artists by selling their art online is an awesome idea! If a gallery did that they would be grooming potential artists to represent physically at a later time. That would be better than dropping mid career artists for these young pups who have not proven themselves yet.

Ed Natiya said...

As an artist who shows in a gallery and represents a good deal of the sales, I have seen the decline of sales as well. However, I recently started a blog to pursue my painting (I'm known for my sculpture), and I have received (in only two weeks) some good feedback (privately) about how much people enjoy seeing my process. I've decided to increase the value of my paintings by letting people see how it's made (to a certain extent).

I think this will draw my clients closer, and make them buy more (I'll let you know). Anyway, my point is, I am embracing the Internet and believe it will generate more sales in the long run (again, I'll let you know).

Soon I will put up a gallery of all my work and use the Internet to sell both precasts and paintings before the piece is completed. I think it will work. Let's face it, until the galleries start doing it right, we have to take things in our own hands. Your feedback is appreciated!