Buying art online: how technology has made buying art easier and accessible to all

Once firmly in the domain of the privileged and wealthy, the process of buying art has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past few years. Thanks to technology, investing in art (either as a serious collector, curios newcomer or somewhere in between) is easier and more accessible than ever. Anyone who has ever been intimidated by the thought of visiting an art gallery, and those new to art collecting, have a new outlet to allay their fears – the internet.

With many art galleries downsizing their physical footprint, the internet is becoming an increasingly valuable arm of the art world. World renowned Christies saw an 84% growth in online auction sales in 2016 alone. For consumers too, technology has forever disrupted the way in which people research, discover and discuss art. Online means never having to set aside time to visit a gallery and using social media to browse latest art trends from home or on the daily commute, day and night, is an appealing luxury.

As recently as five years ago, representing art online was frowned upon. The fear of artists, who viewed showing works on the internet as ‘burning’ their inventory, was matched by the fear of consumers with trust issues. But this negative view has eroded and in 2017, 57% of all art buyers use the highly visual based social media platform, Instagram, more frequently than any other when searching for art (HISCOX online art trade report 2017). It seems, that along with every other industry, the art world is finally embracing an openness to e-commerce. And not just for everyday purchases. Today, people are far more open to buying ‘big’ online.

What about art investors? Human interaction, of course, will always be vital when parting with significant amounts of cash and galleries are highly instrumental in providing advice and customer service. However, the internet is a valuable tool for galleries when it comes to expanding their reach. Online galleries, like Gallery 44, are able to embrace a wider audience, to encourage a better appreciation and understanding of art and to promote new artists. Whilst customers often start their search online, a serious purchase will invariably lead to an offline connection with the gallery or artist. The two worlds complement each other perfectly in this sense.

At both ends of the spectrum and for all involved, the internet has made art buying easier. Individual artists can find a new voice and self-promote without the pressure of being accepted by a major gallery. Consumers can search, without prejudice, for particular works and artists that speak to them, within their specified budget and art collectors can measure the lie of the land before making big investment decisions. After all, being visible, being accessible is the most important part of any art transaction.

All art needs this visible world and will always need it. Quite simply because, being accessible to all, it is the key to all other worlds.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner