Art News

Online galleries have transformed the global art economy into something unexpected. Not only do new digital platforms provide increased access to art for larger, more diverse audiences, but they also empower emerging artists — many of whom have traditionally been underrepresented in the art world — to share their work.

 
This article originally appeared in BuzzFeed.

Online galleries have transformed the global art economy into something unexpected. Not only do new digital platforms provide increased access to art for larger, more diverse audiences, but they also empower emerging artists — many of whom have traditionally been underrepresented in the art world — to share their work.

While auction houses and brick-and-mortar galleries continue to provide an important avenue for established buyers, the most significant changes in the art world are taking place online. At their conception, online art galleries were viewed as a separate part of the art market — when they were considered at all. But, with online galleries representing the fastest growing sector within the art world — it is impossible to ignore the huge impact they are having on artists and buyers.

Because of online galleries, the definition of what constitutes the art world has changed. The digital revolution is expanding our notion of what the art market can be in the 21st century. All of which begs the question: What does the future of the global art economy hold, and who will be its major players?

Artists and Buyers Have More Freedom and Control

Since we started Saatchi Art almost a decade ago, power dynamics have shifted for the better for both artists and collectors.

Artists who struggled to gain recognition in the traditional art world can now reach audiences at unprecedented levels. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ artists have never enjoyed as much visibility as they do today. Now that a more inclusive community of artists can share their voices, a more diverse population of potential collectors are discovering artworks which reflect their perspectives.

According to aggregate auction data from Arts Economics, published by Art Basel & UBS, male artists have consistently captured more than 90% of the total market by volume and 93% by value. Often times, such works are being acquired by experienced collectors who purchase brand name artists at the top end of the market as a status symbol and investment, otherwise known as “trophy art.”

These works are beyond the budgets of most people, but many top end works don’t necessarily resonate with younger buyers and emerging collectors.

Most of us want to purchase art — and live with art — that directly speaks to us and reflects our tastes and interests. A young Latinx woman living in Texas may be far more interested in a work by a local emerging artist that she has met at a neighborhood art space than a work by Titian. What we’re seeing in our online gallery is that, as artist diversity grows, so too does the diversity in our collectors, and new spaces facilitate the joining of their tastes and creativity.

Getting Involved With the New Art World

Historically, buying art has been difficult for the average person. The art world hasn’t been a welcoming environment. Greater transparency introduced by online galleries has removed much of the friction common in the traditional art world, and people are gaining confidence as a result. Online galleries also provide new buyers with guidance and personal curation, so they can feel more confident in the purchases they make. Some, such as Saatchi Art, offer this as a complimentary service, in contrast to the prohibitively expensive fees of art advisors who charge as much as $250 per hour.

The democratization of art collecting has afforded greater access, resources, and opportunities to more emerging artists, allowing some to surpass more established ones. For instance, Brooklyn-based artist KAWS outsold world-renowned artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in the first six months of 2019. This wouldn’t be possible without the demand for emerging artists and the support newer artists are receiving from a broader base of collectors.

More and more people are participating in the new art economy, either as buyers or as artists, regardless of demographics. In the U.S. alone, the arts contributed $763.6 billion to the economy and employed more than 4.9 million workers with earnings of more than $370 billion. The arts also exported $20 billion more than imported, according to the report by U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts.

This is the dawn of a new era in art appreciation, creation, and distribution. Artists and art lovers who previously weren’t catered to by the art world now have new and rewarding ways to show and discover art. Online galleries have revolutionized the old art scene, giving opportunities to a much wider range of artists and providing people all over the world with ways to find artworks they love. People are responding to and purchasing works that resonate with their own tastes, which is broadening the pool of artists whose works are being acquired. Artists and collectors from all walks of life no longer need to hurdle insurmountable barriers to access the art world — they can join the welcoming, thriving community that has already formed.





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