Service of Art Advisors: Artsy.net, Artspace.com, 20×200, Etsy & Amazon.com
December 19th, 2013
Categories: Art, E-Commerce
Art advisors–personal art shoppers–are nothing new. Bernard Berenson, who died in 1959, was one of the famous ones. He guided Isabella Stewart Gardner to make her picks of old masters. With the exception of a few that were stolen and never found, you can see them in her home, now a well known Boston museum [photo below, left].
Like a medical second opinion, when you’re spending $zillions or know nothing about art or have no time to look for it, or you’re buying merely for investment, such counsel makes sense. Corporations that invest in art hire their share. Like a stock broker or financial advisor there are no guarantees that the guidance of an art advisor means an investment is sound but then, where do guarantees exist?
And while art advisors would no doubt feel insulted by being mentioned in the same breath, all over the country art shops and framing businesses are called on to fill the walls of new homes with work that complements the decor that decorators chose and put in place. According to the experience of a friend who had been in the framing business, in these selections homeowners seem to be largely out of the picture.
According to its website in a memo signed by founder Carter Cleveland, son of art historian and collector David Cleveland: “Artsy’s mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. We are an online platform for discovering and collecting art. Our growing collection comprises 75,000+ artworks by 15,000+ artists from leading galleries, museums, foundations, and artists’ estates. Artsy provides one of the largest collections of contemporary art available online.”
I don’t know if Artsy’s partners, such as museums, art fairs and galleries, pay for the privilege. They may not need to as this company, as are online art auction houses like Paddle8, has generous backing of big money and endorsement by the high-profile.
Back to Artsy.net, according to Wikipedia, which reports on 2012 information: “The business model is commission-based where gallery partners pay Artsy a sales commission that averages 3% of the sales price. Artsy operates on an honor system, relying on the galleries to report the sale.”
And the website is well done. I imagine that some buyers would consider it added value if something they are about to buy is silently endorsed by inclusion in a bigger entity with partners as prestigious as the Guggenheim Museum.
The concept intrigues me. I’m a proponent of anything that encourages interest in art and artsy promotes prominent art fairs and encourages attendance.
In “Giving the Gift of Art,” Anna Russell writes in The Wall Street Journal about other e-commerce art resources such as Artspace.com, 20×200, Etsy and Amazon.com: “In the past, the online art market suffered from concerns over provenance and authenticity that kept online purchases mainly to lower-priced works, says Clare McAndrew, founder of Arts Economics, a research and consulting firm that studies the art economy.
“‘This ceiling is gradually shifting upwards as new generations of art buyers increasingly demand to transact in art in the same way they purchase elsewhere,’ Ms. McAndrew said. Online art sales are generally concentrated around midpriced artworks, ranging from a few hundred dollars up to about $100,000, she said. ‘Some buyers are graduating up from the lower end of the market, and others have moved down as prices in the high end become increasingly bizarre.’”
However, it’s one thing to admire an image on a screen and pin it on Pinterest and another to see it in person. Like an Oriental rug or a textile in an image, a watercolor, photograph, oil or mixed media picture can look quite different on your wall, up close, from across the room and in different lights. Does it still haunt you? Perhaps if a print, poster or image is well known, some of these considerations don’t exist. And if merely for investment, who cares.
In addition, it’s tough to grasp the size of something in the real space of your home or apartment even if the dimensions are clearly stated. Once we bought a piece of Mexican folk art from a photograph where it appeared to be huge. We had just the vast place for it. When it arrived it was so small it fit nicely on the mantel.
Does buying on line save time? Unlike returning a cashmere sweater that disappoints because it feels more like cardboard than a warm and comforting garment, wrapping and shipping art is a pain. I’m being small-minded: A person who writes a check for an online purchase in the $100,000 to $1 million range has someone wrap up and ship the work for them.
I wonder if most clients of an online art advisory service buy art for investment rather than to enhance their home or office. If money were no object, would you enroll the assistance of an art advisor? Do you enjoy seeing art on line or do you prefer seeing it in person? Have you bought art online and are you tempted to?