By LISA KLEIN
Like with most goods, although maybe more surprisingly, online sales of fine art have soared during the pandemic.
Traditionally purchasing in-person and through the experts at galleries and fairs, many collectors have begun buying pricey art with the click of a button instead, somewhat driven by necessity over the last 18 months.
“Beginning in 2020, we saw a significant increase in sales, and for all types of art,” said Sarah Meller, senior director of brand and marketing at online art dealer Saatchi Art.
“Many people realized that art can be an important source of beauty during a challenging time, and also that it can bring joy to one’s personal space,” she said.
A whopping 33 percent of all art sales happened online in the first half of this year, according to the Art Basel and USB Art Market Report 2021 midyear review.
The majority of those sales were to first-timers: 38 percent of online buyers were completely new collectors and 25 percent were collectors purchasing online for the first time.
“The pandemic certainly accelerated consumer confidence around buying art online, and now customers are converted,” Ms. Meller said.
It is not just emerging artists at the lower price range selling online either.
In June a painting by Ethiopian-American artist Julie Mehretu was sold at auction by another online art platform Artsy for $6.5 million – a record high for both the artist and website.
“In general, there isn’t one type of art collector,” Ms. Meller said. “Our buyers really run the gamut – some are younger and are purchasing their first original artwork with us, while others are more established collectors.”
Being able to offer artwork online has expanded who can become a collector as well.
“While many of our buyers are city-dwellers, others reside in more rural places without easy access to art galleries and fairs,” Ms. Meller said.
“As our collector base grows, we’re excited to welcome such a broad range of art lovers to the Saatchi Art community, and to buying art online more broadly,” she said.
An artist’s touch
Whether a collector loves abstract painting, photography or metal sculpture, they can dig through a treasure trove of works online rather than be constrained to what a physical gallery is showing at the moment.
“You can explore thousands of artworks by artists from all over the globe from wherever you are, and on your own time,” Ms. Meller said.
“Beyond the diversity of offerings and the convenience, buying art through an online gallery also affords you transparency of pricing, and access to a wealth of information about the work, the artist, and their practice,” she said.
Online dealers have also had to get creative in helping collectors to find works that they love from behind a screen.
Saatchi Art works directly with artists all over the world and pays 65 percent on every sale compared to the traditional 50 percent. The platform’s team of curators then gets busy crafting weekly collections to showcase new finds.
The site also offers complimentary art advisory services, a “View in a Room” tool that allows potential buyers to see works in their own spaces and white-glove service in getting each work to its new home.
“Buying art can be an intimidating process, and when you are purchasing it online there’s an even greater need to go above and beyond to make a buyer feel comfortable and confident,” Ms. Meller said.
“Saatchi Art’s mission to help people around the world discover art and artists they love is the driving force behind the work we do at our gallery,” she said.
That level of care certainly seems to be working.
“Online galleries are disrupting the status quo by opening up art buying to a much larger audience, and those folks aren’t looking back,” Ms. Meller said.