Contrary to a legacy of exclusivity, the art world is embracing digital media as a pathway to increased accessibility. Although the industry initially struggled to find its online footing, a spate of forward-thinking websites is now transforming the way artists, galleries and collectors interact with one another. These digital initiatives streamline the logistical limitations of a traditional gallery’s overhead costs, while expanding the ways in which would-be collectors can browse, interact with and find potential acquisitions. The result is a newly diversified and democratized platform for both buying and selling fine art.
At the most affordable end of the spectrum are websites like Cerealart, Exhibition A and Society6, which forego the one-off model in lieu of limited-run and limited edition pieces available to a wider audience. Cerealart specializes in the development, production and distribution of three-dimensional sculptural designs. The company produces unique artist multiples by recognized international figures like Yoshitomo Nara and David Shrigley. Similarly, Exhibition A collaborates with top contemporary artists on exclusive prints that are available to its subscribers for limited periods of time. Society 6, meanwhile, skips the middle man entirely by allowing artists to upload their work directly to the website. Once posted online, users can order designs in the size and format of their choice (from fine art prints to stretched canvas to t-shirts).
Like the art world’s answer to Netflix, Artsicle allows users to rent and exchange hand-selected pieces by emerging New York artists. For less decisive or new collectors, this structure encourages aesthetic exploration without the cost or pressure of an instant investment. The website also features live support to help guide users through the process, while simultaneously creating a supportive platform for new and under-represented talents. Although the rental feature is currently only available to New York-based collectors, the company is set to expand into other markets as well.
Soon to launch Art.sy focuses on the value of consumer customization. The company’s Art Genome Project analyzes the aesthetic qualities that define and connect works of art in order to triangulate a would-be collector’s taste and potential range of interests. By evaluating pieces on more than 500 characteristics (technical properties, historical context, subject matter, etc.), the project is able to quickly identify potential matches as well as generate personalized recommendations. And with artwork sourced everywhere from emerging studios to museum collections and artist estates, the inventory of options is as varied as its consumers’ tastes.
As previously covered in our “Art Rethinker” series, Paddle8 functions as an online hub where established and novice collectors can browse high-end works at multiple galleries. The pristinely curated website reduces the traditional overhead costs of inventory management, promotion, engagement and delivery, while enhancing interactive opportunities for potential buyers. “We felt that improved access and education would in time draw a new audience into the art world, as well as facilitate the engagement of established collectors,” co-founder Aditya Julka explained in our recent interview.
The appeal of this streamlined approach was on full display last winter at the VIP Art Fair. The week-long virtual art showcase was an opportunity for smaller galleries to forgo the typical cost of booths, transportation and promotion at high-profile events in favor of a digital platform that operated within a comparable social context. Simulating the time sensitive window of an art festival and the varied representation of multiple galleries (138 exhibitors participated), the initiative successfully drew 41,000 visitors from around the world.
Although this spectrum of initiatives varies in price point and interpretation, the underlying attitude of increased accessibility promises to transform the breadth of artistic output and consumption in the future. “With the onset of digital platforms leveraging the full capabilities of the web and technology, collectors now, more than ever, have the ability to directly access and acquire artworks from the comfort of their homes,” Julka points out. “This is leading to the emergence of a truly global art market.”