Our world is currently experiencing an Information Revolution where people depend on the Internet, social media platforms, apps, etc. for both work and their personal lives. From the art world’s perspective, this technological platform has created an unprecedented and convenient marketplace for artists to advertise and show their work to the local and international public. Today we see galleries, auction houses and art blogs meeting this new marketplace by utilizing online platforms to conduct online art sales, online auctions and distributing art world knowledge. Some museums are now even creating art exhibitions online that can be viewed in the comfort of your own home. This online art marketplace revolution has no doubt made the art world increasingly transparent and accessible for art collectors, enthusiasts and artists. With the online art marketing booming, there are new features to the art market that art collectors, enthusiasts and artists should be aware of. Here are some tips to follow when looking at or buying art via online avenues.


Importance for art entities to utilize online avenues

Today most art buyers, curators, and galleries are spending more time browsing online art and using the Internet and social media to collect first-hand information regarding current and potential artists. For this reason, it is imperative that artists create a well thought out and up to date website and for art galleries to invest in social media accounts such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to aid in advertising art, exhibitions and events. At the moment Instagram is now the social media channel of choice in the art world and can potentially influence the decisions of new and existing buyers. In creating various websites and social media accounts, this online network allows artists an unique way to transfer information to the international forum that is tailored to their individual preferences and audience. Both established and upcoming artists have equal opportunities to publish their artworks online and it is up to social media and online users to filter their settings to discover art they may like. With the ease of social media and the Internet, art is not only for people who can or would normally attend an exhibition; it is for everyone with access to this informative technology. 


Things you need to know to navigate the online art market

When thinking of purchasing a piece of art online one must learn how to navigate the Internet properly and be aware of certain buying strategies. This way you can ensure the art you purchase online has credibility and is of the best quality.


1.    Buyer education

Art collectors need to be well informed and know what to look for in artworks they are interested in purchasing online. Collectors should make sure there is ample information online on the artist they wish to purchase. When ready to purchase an artwork online, first look for an artist website to get a better feel for that artist – look for their biography, exhibition history, articles written about the artist and art sales history. Search the Internet for auction results on this artist. These should come up on online platforms such as Artnet or Artprice. Here you can see if an artist has auction results and request for artwork prices sold by that artist.  If an artist has an auction history and results posted online then this is a good indication they will be good investment pieces. If an artist does not yet have auction prices this is an indicator they are an emerging artist and should have lower price points.


2.    Research multiple online platforms

Make sure to thoroughly research a variety of online platforms to make sure you have chosen the best one and to check past and comparable prices and artists. Refer to Hiscox report “The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2017” pages 41-50 for a list of the top online art platforms.  


3.    Information on the artwork

When purchasing an artwork online make sure the online platform you are purchasing from provides content about characteristics of the artwork such as the artworks name, artist who made it, year of completion, dimensions, medium and price. It is also important to see if that online platform includes shipping in the price of the artwork or if this is an extra cost.


4.    Look at social media avenues

Take a look at the number of likes or comments on artworks by the artist you are interested in via social media avenues like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. See how big of a follower base the artist has. This potentially shows the desirability of an artist, which can give you a good indication you are making a good choice. 


5.    Human interaction

When purchasing an artwork online human interaction is still important. Once you have decided upon which artwork you wish to purchase, make sure to speak to a representative prior to buying. Most entities provide the option of emailing or calling them to inquire further about the artworks. We suggest calling, this way it gives you an opportunity to speak first-hand to an expert who can give you a more in depth explanation about that particular artwork. They can provide insider information about the piece you wish to purchase. Speaking to a representative can also be beneficial for aspects such as shipping. This way they can explain the most cost effective shipping options for you.


Online art platforms to look out for

At the moment online art sales are at an all-time high and the number of online art platforms is gradually increasing each year outpacing the traditional art market. What is particularly interesting is that most of the growth in online sales is taking place in the traditional art businesses. Ever since the traditional art businesses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s decided to adapt to the digital age and introduce and invest in online platforms, the growth in online art sales has picked up substantially. Sotheby’s and Christie’s now dominate the online auction sales and as such researchers believe that:


“… most online art platforms see the auction space as the key battlefield in the next 12 months, as virtually every online art platform starts to offer an online auction service.” – Hiscox


One of the forefront runners of the online art platforms and that has fast become an online art buyer favourite is the online art platform Artsy. Artsy is a multidimensional art business that not only sells art online but also produces blogs, research and surveys to keep collectors updated with art world events. Artsy was an online art platform predominantly targeting galleries. Galleries would pay a subscription to Artsy in return for them posting and selling their artworks online. At first galleries seemed hesitant to the idea of selling art online via a third party entity. Today however, after the success of online platforms like Artsy, most galleries say they would rather generate online sales by partnering with an existing art e-commerce platform. Galleries have also noticed that when utilizing online art platforms most of their online sales go to international clients. As such online platforms are particularly beneficial and an important channel to broaden galleries client base globally. Artsy recently has also adapted to the increasing competition of online art platforms by partnering with auctions houses Phillips and Heritage to do online auctions.


The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the forerunning museums adapting to the online art market revolution by incorporating some of their exhibitions online. The exhibition #weareculture is a new virtual fashion experience that is a collaboration between the Victoria Albert Museum and:


Google Arts and Culture to unlock the world of fashion with a new virtual experience and a host of online exhibitions detailing the incredible stories behind the V&A’s collections, and the stories behind what we wear.” – The Victoria and Albert Museum


Included in the #wewearculture online exhibition are virtual reality experiences of different fashion items. For example below is a virtual reality experience of Vivienne Westwood's corset in the #wewearculture online exhibition taken from Westwood’s 1990 Portrait collection. In the online exhibition it shows the virtual reality experience of the corset in 360 degrees, explaining background information and the importance of the fashion piece and its relationship to society.