The art market has completely changed. Here’s how to buy artwork today

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

For a long time, the art market was the “secret world of whispers,” in the words of art consultant Kim Heirston, who began his career working at galleries in downtown New York. York three decades ago. Later, as an archivist for the late designer Robert Miller, she protected and shared only those documents that were important to gallery revenue, upon request.

But today, starting a fine art collection is easier than ever, thanks to the internet, where many of today’s art market players operate. Buying works of art isn’t just for art professionals or wealthy collectors who can afford to rent them. Heirston said in a phone interview.

Many artworks can be purchased or auctioned online, bypassing older models, such as negotiating directly with galleries or attending auctions.

Artwork from Platform by Aneta Bartos (left) and Lucía Vidales (right).

Artwork from Platform by Aneta Bartos (left) and Lucía Vidales (right). Credit: Jonathan Hökklo @ hawkclaw / Platform

In 2019, Hiscox’s annual art trade report captured this trend, estimating that online art sales hit $4.8 billion that year – up from $1.5 billion dollars in 2013. This is expected to grow to $9.32 billion by 2024.

The coronavirus pandemic has also prompted significant changes – from major auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s experimenting with combined direct and digital sales, and galleries and art fairs adapting to virtual galleries. There’s also been a boom in the digital art market thanks NFTs (the token is not replaceable).

But that said, those who can afford and are interested in purchasing works of art for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more), hire an art consultant to guide the collection. Your advice and advice on the art market is probably still wise.

“I was able to see the ups and downs,” says Heirston. “I know who’s supportive and who’s not. I try to predict who might be liked or coveted.”

But for first-time buyers or newcomers with a more modest budget — hundreds or thousands, for example — they’ll find there are plenty of new ways to get started.

How to buy art online

The online art marketplace offers a number of tools to help you capture the market, from powerful search features and extensive pricing data to informative articles to help bring artists and works to the market. art into context.

Artsy, founded in 2009, remains the largest marketplace, with over 1 million works of art from over 4,000 galleries, art fairs and institutions [disclaimer: this writer was a former employee at Artsy], but sites including Artsper and Saatchi Art also offer plenty of options. Users of these platforms will not necessarily be unable to click to buy All artwork listed – with some you will have to offer online or contact a gallery. Both Artsy and Artnet also partner with auction houses and other organizations to offer exclusive online auctions.

A market view of the Platform.

A market view of the Platform. Credit: Communication

So where can someone start? As a general rule, prints, works on paper, photography and digital art often offer a more affordable price tag than painting or sculpture. Additionally, monitoring the market for new artists can mean finding a great piece of art before their work becomes too expensive.

However, with the seemingly endless list, the question becomes how to sort through them all.

That’s where the Platform has grown, the David Zwirner-backed marketplace curating just 100 contemporary pieces a month from independent galleries across the US. Its general manager Bettina Huang says their model is similar to Net-a-Porter, offering luxury fashion tweaks and beauty services, “and then making it really, really easy.” easy for you to buy.”

Platform artwork by Marcel Dzama (above) and Danielle Orchard (below).

Platform artwork by Marcel Dzama (above) and Danielle Orchard (below). Credit: Jonathan Hökklo @ hawkclaw / Platform

After major gallery David Zwirner teamed up with smaller galleries to open a series of viewing rooms during the pandemic closing showrooms and halting sales, Zwirner’s son Lucas turned the project upside down. project into her own art e-commerce company with Huang and a separate team. The platform offers a variety of works under $10,000, and they can all be purchased directly through the website (even in installments via Klarna). It’s first come, first served – unlike many showrooms, which can require intensive relationship building – although there is a loyalty program for repeat buyers to gain access 24 hours early every month.

“By limiting it to certain pieces of art that are specifically examined by galleries we’ve invited, it’s a very different approach to, as a consumer or collector, , you can feel really confident that anything you buy has gone through multiple layers of testing,” Lucas Zwirner said on a video call with Huang. “Our aspiration with the Platform is to present a truly diverse, accurate snapshot of what’s best out there.”

How to rent to own

Buying expensive artwork isn’t a quick decision for most people, which is why Parlor, a company that launched in 2020 is operating on a trial-before-you-buy model, Sign up for showrooms to offer monthly installments. about the total cost of a work.

Shop users only have to make a slight commitment, signing up for a 3- to 12-month lease, with the option to renew, buy, or exchange for a new part at the end. If an artist’s market value happens to increase during the lease, the price of the artwork will not increase – although if someone wants to purchase the artwork during the lease, the galleries has the right to sell the work. Parlor handles installation and insurance, and provides instructions on how to build the collection.

See Parlor's website.

See Parlor’s website. Credit: Living room

“Buying art is hard… most people don’t really know what they want, because they haven’t really lived the art,” Parlor co-founder and CEO Julian Siegelmann said in a statement. Video calls.

“Most (people) don’t put thousands of dollars in showrooms or fairs. So for us, it’s really … reducing financial barriers, solving logistical problems. and then provide consulting services.”

While some of the pieces listed on Parlor can go as high as $50,000, Siegelmann said it’s primarily focused on providing artwork under $20,000. (Buildings under $10,000 typically cost $85 a month for a 12-month lease.) And the company’s inventory isn’t just limited to what’s on their website – they recently launched a request feature where you can send them artwork you’re interested in while browsing. at galleries or art fairs and they will contact you on your behalf.

A Parlor collector's house has "Flow (Buckley)" by Henrik Eiben in Pablo's Birth.

A Parlor collector’s home features Henrik Eiben’s “Flow (Buckley)” on Pablo’s Birthdate. Credit: Mark Rosen / Living room

Parlor’s chief marketing officer, Kaitlin Macholz, who came to the company from Christie’s, says that living with a product first is the best way to ensure that you want to keep it for the long term.

“Sometimes you have a really different reaction when you see a piece of art in person than when you see it online,” she says. “Things like scale or texture may not always show up online… Having it actually hang on your couch or above your bed can completely change the way you look at artwork. that art and about space.”

How to collect digital art

One of the biggest changes in the industry has occurred in the digital realm, with the emergence of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. NFT works like a virtual signature using blockchain technology, giving digital creators the ability to prove their work is the original file. (NFTs can be created from any digital file – virtual fashion, event tickets, memes – which means that technology has also had more of an impact on the visual arts.)

Merel van Helsdingen, founder and chief executive officer of Amsterdam’s new media-focused Nxt Museum – and a digital art collector himself – says that NFT has broken down barriers for people who can sell their work as an artist. “The world of physical art is highly regulated and controlled by the major auction houses, galleries and larger institutions,” she said in a video interview.

NFTs, on the other hand, are sold largely outside the confines of the traditional art space, on newer or proprietary e-commerce platforms, regardless of whether the artist is “blue chip” or represented by a precious showroom.


“It’s open to everyone, if you have an email address and a crypto wallet, but you don’t even need (the wallet) everywhere,” she said. (She recommends the Rainbow wallet to securely store your collection as well as your coins.)

That’s not to say the big auction houses aren’t participating – this past March eye-catching with $69 million Selling Beeple at Christie’s strengthened NFT’s marketability in the art world.

One of the biggest benefits of artists using the NFT is that they automatically generate a percentage on each sale of their new artwork, as opposed to traditional auctions, where the works artists can sell for millions of dollars without them seeing a dime. Collectors know that every resale benefits the creator.

However, the market is also prone to “too much hype,” van Helsdingen said, with competition, quick bidding for limited editions, intrinsic unpredictableness and, unfortunately, hacks and scams. (It is also not environmentally friendly due to the energy requirements of mining and trading, although many crypto projects and NFT platforms have been working towards reducing their ecological footprint, van. Helsdingen noted.)

As for displaying your NFT collection, you can do so on any digital display, but certain virtual worlds will soon offer more options, she said, like showing your artwork in a video game or through an augmented reality (XR) app.

Top image: A Parlor collector’s living room featuring “Mantle” by Zach Bruder from Magenta Plains.


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