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Buying Art Online - Does e-Commerce Work In The Art World?

Talenia Phua Gajardo of The Artling shares her thoughts on art in the online space.

By Talenia Phua Gajardo (as told to Daniel Hilarion Lim) Photo credit: Vickneswaran S/O Panneerselvam

Buying art online has already been happening for a really long time, sight unseen — meaning you buy a piece without seeing it. They’ll just receive an email, they’ll choose the piece they want and they’ll do a transfer. This has been happening pre-ecommerce, pre-marketplace. And this already happens with collectors here who are buying from galleries in New York and London. The reason there aren’t many online art marketplaces is barriers to entry in creating an online art platform are pretty high because it involves a lot of relationship building. Buyers only buy when they trust the gallery and the source. And that really just boils down to relationships and trust.

In terms of the online art market, it has grown a lot and it is still growing. It has changed tremendously over the last 10 years in both primary and secondary markets. I think the best way to quantify it is looking at annual growth and how more and more people are making art transactions online.

This is usually seen in the secondary market but it is a really good indicator. The size of the art market as a whole is approximately US$62-65 billion. The online part of that alone is about US$42 billion and that’s growing at about 20 percent a year. The auction houses are investing and have invested a lot. Christie’s invested about US$50 million on its online auction platform.

There is a lot of potential in the region and, ultimately, the main goal of Artling is to promote the region internationally, so that people who don’t have access to these artworks and artists can discover them through us. What we really try to do with galleries and artists is to really promote them as much as possible.

Who do I think will be successful online? I think it will be a matter of who’s been able to really aggregate the biggest number of quality galleries and artists in one place. It is about making it easy for collectors to discover, browse and purchase.