Amazon To Sell Art Online: How Will New Store Affect Local Galleries, Independent Artists?

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Introducing Amazon Art, original works of art right at your fingertips. Now you can buy an Andy Warhol “Marilyn Monroe” pop art screenprint for $130,000 online (granted you can afford it) with the recent release of Amazon’s Fine Art Store. The online marketplace brings the gallery world to the Internet, with over 40,000 works of art from over 150 galleries and dealers available.

The Fine Art Store is currently in its beta phase and collecting customer feedback. While Amazon Art is still in testing, the primary features should all be functional with improvements expected in the future.

“We are excited to bring one of the largest selections of fine art direct from galleries to our customers. Amazon Art gives galleries a way to bring their passion and expertise about the artists they represent to our millions of customers,” said Peter Faricy, vice president for the Amazon Marketplace in an official company press release. “We’re thrilled to bring the excitement and emotional connection of art to our customers.”

While the movement of the tangible to online often means blows to the offline world, it appears gallery owners are optimistic about Amazon Art. With books, music and movies so readily available online, the disappearance of local shops is becoming more common (i.e. Borders, Blockbuster, Tower Records). Hopefully, this won’t be the case for many local art dealers.

“It’ll be another outlet for us to showcase our artists and get that wider range of people who are looking for art that would normally not come across into our building,” said Modernbook Gallery manager Danny Sanchez, who was eager to partner with Amazon, NPR reports. “They redefined online shopping, and I think they have the ability to do that for this new kind of marketplace for art.”

Will this stab at online art sales be more successful than Amazon’s attempt over a decade ago? Back in 2000, Amazon collaborated with Sotheby’s in a similar venture, selling works of art online. However, the pilot only lasted 16 months, TechRadar reports. Perhaps riding solo with the Fine Art Store online will serve as a better option for Amazon, and subsequently, the gallery owners and independent artists partnering with the electronic commerce giant.

“We operate a wonderful fine art gallery, yet realize that the models for dealing in contemporary arts have evolved in this digital age and ecommerce is a channel to reach more clientele. We are excited about sharing our talented artists with Amazon’s global customers and pleased to be part of the launch of the Amazon Art store,” said Holden Luntz, owner and founder of Holden Luntz Gallery. “Amazon is an innovative leader in exploring new creative ventures and connecting the world. They have consistently put the buyer first and built a reputation for integrity and high quality.”

BBC News reported in June that, although the art industry is one of the last commerces to make the transition to digital, it may be a strategic move. The online art market is reportedly growing 20 percent each year.

“We sell more art in a month online than most bricks-and-mortar galleries do in a year,” says Rebecca Wilson, a director of Saatchi Gallery. “It’s because of a huge international audience, a lot of work and a team of curators making sure very good work rises to the fore.”

Still, not everyone believes that the Amazon Art release is a good idea. “This is a stunning idea and I find it hard to believe they can pull it off in fine art,” says James Hedges, the president of the art-oriented investment firm Montage Finance, according to the Art Newspaper. “Prints, multiples and editions may be the low end of the market but there is still a low end of the low end.”

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