How technology shapes the art world

The art world is one of the centuries old industries that has been the focus of a Silicon Valley style shake-up in recent years. There has been an explosion of online art businesses, worth $1.57 billion in 2013, but no clear leader in this space has emerged.

Maintaining the same growth rate as last year (2013) of 19%, …we estimate it will be worth US$3.76 billion in 2018. – The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2014

The first generation of online art businesses opened up e-commerce to artists and galleries to list and sell their artworks directly. Meanwhile, the established auction houses moved online and met new, web-only, competitors. The second generation of online art businesses are tweaking the models and looking hard at mobile.

What is working in the Art and Technology space?

Knowledge sharing and curating are working well in the art and technology space.

Technology is sharing knowledge which was previously hard to come by in the exclusive art world. Online galleries, art magazines, and marketplaces have become successful portfolios for artists and an invaluable resource for collectors. This allows collectors to follow an artist at major art fairs in Basel, Miami, Hong Kong to museums in Berlin, New York, London, Beijing and Paris without leaving their home.

The best way to build an art collection is to develop your eye and your knowledge and become a connoisseur. To do this you need to view 1000s of art works in your lifetime. Online resources allow art buyers to see more works than they ever could travelling from gallery, to museum, to studio in person. Architects, designers and corporations buying art are able to preview a whole range of art work in one place.

Highly curated online art platforms are a valuable blend of physical gallery and advisor in one refined space. Online buyers in Asia are becoming more discerning and curation is key. The curators on these platforms are able to devote more time to sifting through the vast selection of art available on open listings platforms, at art fairs and to find buyers for galleries who are busy with exhibitions and art fairs. This is a win-win for galleries, artists and collectors. Collectors are able to access a wider range and depth of artwork without losing out on informed discussions about the art work.

Do Art Collectors buy expensive blue-chip art online?

Many of the online art marketplaces offer a “Buy Now” function. The reported figures and our own experience shows that collectors do transact online. Search functions and excellent quality images are vital for this to work well. The barriers to online sales are knowledge, trust and a seamless experience. Trust is built by word of mouth, meeting in-person, secure online payment systems, excellent logistics support, and interactive social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If a collector already knows an artist or gallery, then he will be more comfortable buying from them online. If a collector knows the online platform and their authenticity process she will be more comfortable buying art online.

It is estimated that the online art market, including online sales by auction houses, dealers and online-only companies, could grow at a rate of at least 25 percent per annum, meaning that they could exceed 10 billion euros by 2020. – Bloomberg, 2014an31

How does technology influence buyers of contemporary art?

A large proportion of art market sales in the primary and secondary (auction) market are works by contemporary artists. From July 2013 to July 2014, contemporary art sales globally tipped $2billion for the first time. Artists from the US and China topped the list.

If museum curators and art historians decide which artists of each generation are included in art history books, who decides the value of contemporary art made yesterday or last year or in the last 10 years?

Social media has a large role to play in the success of contemporary artists. Today, artists’ reputations are built by collectors, global super-curators, galleries, the artists themselves and other influencers. There is a much wider demographic of influencers than in previous generations.

Whilst there are no Taylor Swifts, with millions of followers, in the art world yet, some artists are doing very well on Instagram and Twitter which drives their influence, popularity and ultimately their sales.