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The Tipping Point for Technology and the Art Market?

MAY 2012



Your VIP Pass to the Art World

The Power of Collecting in your hands

The Tipping Point for Technology and the Art Market?


For the Sarah Belden Fine Art Advisory inaugural newsletter we welcome friends, clients, collectors and colleagues to browse our newly launched website featuring our Art Consulting Services and Online Gallery of exclusive and unique works by Emerging Artists as well as Limited Edition Prints and Photography offered in conjunction with our new partner in New York, Hamburg Kennedy Photographs.

SBFA's Art Consulting Services
Your VIP Pass to the Art World

SBFA can assist you in purchasing a single work of art or in building your entire collection from the ground up. With our extensive knowledge of the international art market and personal connections to galleries, dealers and auction houses across the United States, Europe and Asia we can help you make an informed purchase and find exactly what it is you are looking for, whether it is a specific print or unique work by an emerging artist. SBFA can provide you with the access and information you need to guide you through the vast, challenging and ever expanding art market, in addition to a variety of other services such as insurance appraisals, collection management, artist's commissions, auction assistance and more.

Online Gallery
The Power of Collecting in your hands

If you prefer to browse and choose artworks from the comfort of your own home, we invite you to visit our curated selection of international artists’ works available at our Online Gallery. Increasingly collectors have begun to use the far reaching power of the internet as a resource for acquiring works of art on their own. SBFA’s Online Gallery puts the power of collecting art in the hands of the buyer and acts as a key resource that offers the advantage of a curated database of pre-selected work by international Emerging Artists, as well as hand picked Limited Edition Prints and Photography, in partnership with Hamburg Kennedy Photographs, all easily available for purchase online.

In addition to acquainting yourself with SBFA's professional Art Consulting Services and our Online Gallery you can also read up on what is new and exciting in the art world in our monthly newsletter. For our inaugural issue Sarah examines Fine Art's relationship with e-commerce and the impact of the growing trend in taking the art market online in her article, State of the Art: the Tipping Point for Technology and the Art Market. In next months issue we are pleased to bring you the first edition of our monthly Art Asia Report, Sarah Belden's exclusive view from the Asia Pacific region, focusing on artists, galleries, museums, art fairs, and private collections, that will feature a VIP exclusive from the Hong Kong Interntional Art Fair in June and the Benesee Art Site Naoshima, Japan in July.

State of the Art: the Tipping Point for Technology and the Art Market

One might say that the Art Market is in the midst of its very own dot com boom at the moment, as evidenced by the seemingly innumerable art related websites that are popping up every day. There are online auctions, virtual art fairs, digital exhibitions and a multitude of magazines and databases, all focused on those interested in art and collecting. Two of the latest and most high profile of these ventures are; the VIP Art Fair (Viewing in Private), and the recent partnership of the Armory Show and Paddle 8, a curated online auction platform.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s are also getting in on the action, and now transmit their auctions live online, allowing for real-time bidding from any connected PC. For those on the go, anyone with a smart phone can access the traditionally exclusive brick and mortar auction houses from anywhere with Sotheby's and Christie's sleek new mobile applications. For a more individualized experience, the site, (funded by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Jack Dorsey of Twitter, and Dasha Zhukova) will be an “Art Genome” algorithm that breaks down artworks into 500+ dimensions, (art historical movement, subject matter, formal qualities), and points individuals in the direction of more art they might like based on their preferences, successfully bringing interested collectors and dealers together for a new art buying experience.

While online sales are currently only an infinitesimal piece of the estimated $80-billion art industry, recent reports about venture capitalists pouring money into art-related start-ups such as Paddle 8, which just scored an infusion of $4-million; and Artspace, which just raised $2.5 million, seem to suggest there is a lot of confidence in finally taking the art market online. More telling perhaps is’s re-launching of its own online auction platform in 2007, which originally failed over a decade ago. The second time around they bet that much of the art market below a certain price level would soon operate entirely online, and it appears that artnet’s bet has paid off this time.

Originating as an online information platform, artnet features listings of artists, galleries, auctions and an auction price database. Primarily dealing in prints by Modern and Contemporary masters (Warhol, Calder, Lichtenstein), artnet auctions sold over 6,500 pieces, generating $2.5 million in commissions on $12 million in sales in 2010. In July 2011, artnet auctions broke the million dollar barrier, selling a 1978 Andy Warhol “Flower” painting for $1.322.500. artnet claims this shift comes from growing consumer comfort in the online marketplace as well as the increasing popularity of the pursuit of contemporary art as an investment. artnet’s shift from an information platform to a commercial venture may be seen as highly indicative of Fine Art’s relationship with e-commerce and this is an important trend we should take stock of going forward.

Could this new trend mean the old fashioned, expensive, and logistically cumbersome auction houses, which are tied to seasonal sales calendars, need to update their business model? At the moment only 28% of Christie’s buyers are bidding online, and the average price of on online sale is only $8,123, a number that pales in comparison to the current global lot average of $48,900 at the brick and mortars. While Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and (to a lesser extent) Phillips de Pury, have chosen to merely supplement their traditional auction format with online bidding mechanisms, there is certainly an emerging auction marketplace that exists almost entirely online. One example is Blacklots, which deals mostly in prints ranging from $1,000 - $25,000, and auctions a single object every 24 hours, with flash sale efficiency similar to Giltgroupe. Once a work is consigned, Blacklots will list the piece for sale and then it will go up for auction online in less than seven days, cutting out the traditionally required adherence to the auction houses’ calendars and expensive premiums, shipping and catalogue costs. Another example, perhaps best exemplifying the Internet’s rapidly globalizing effect on the auction market is Saffronart, a Mumbai based online auction house founded in 2000 that specializes in modern and contemporary Indian Art. Saffronart’s inaugural auction sold only $125,000 in art; but six years later, just one of its online auctions sold $17 million. Most recently, its Summer 2011 sale received a bid from a mobile device that exceeded $1 million, a milestone. In addition, Saffronart’s June 2010 auction sold 10 of the top 15 lots sight unseen.

By 2014, 400 million Internet users will connect to the Web through mobile devices rather than computers. The world is going mobile and anyone who has been to an artfair lately can clearly see that galleries and dealers are on top of this trend. Every dealer is now armed with an iPad, which enables them to take their entire inventory with them wherever they go. Another new ipad app is ArtCapture, which allows a collector visiting a participating gallery to point his/her iPhone or iPad camera at any artwork and instantly receive the information about the artwork and the gallery, allowing visitors to “virtually” take the art home with them.

For “armchair collectors” who wish to utilize the Internet’s new, far reaching resources to their own advantage, some of the more recent art e-commerce ventures include: 1stdibs, an online marketplace for art and antiques; Artspace, Exhibition A, and 20x200, all offering limited edition prints; and Kipton Art, a site that specializes in emerging artists, offering literally hundreds of works from artists outside the first tier gallery system. Unfortunately, Kipton Art leaves little in the way of a curated selection of work, making this site much less successful than its counterparts, but these are just a few of the many new art commerce sites recently launched. Whether these online ventures have succeeded or not, it seems that the art market has indeed reached the tipping point with technology, and we may thus ask, what this new access to virtual art and art commerce online means and how it will impact our experience of looking, learning about, and collecting art? Is there a way to differentiate between the myriad sources of information and the onslaught of images, many presented unframed and without context? And how might one select, organize, and process all of this content now so readily available online?

While nothing can replace the experience of looking at art in person and speaking with artists, curators and dealers firsthand, this can be difficult to manage and time consuming for even the most intrepid art enthusiasts. And with the dizzying array of never ending art events, exhibitions, biennales, art fairs and auctions, the already frenetic international art schedule has multiplied exponentially over the last few years. In addition, new trends in the global economy that have expanded the art market’s scope to include important new centers like China, Korea and Brasil, have made the typical art market experience even more unmanageable and overwhelming. It is for this reason that that the burgeoning collector must now, more than ever, look to the best of these resources to help guide them, those that aim to shape our digital experience by including informed educational content, curated platforms, a solid context, and access to trusted resources and professional expertise.


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