Click and Buy—How We Consume Art Online
An expert on the online art landscape, Thomas Galbraith of The Petraeus Group, on the impact the internet has on the global art market.
The online art market has seen an upward trajectory despite the global art market slowing in 2015, according to the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2016.
What traditionally used to be an exclusive marketplace, the art world is opening up, with digital platforms such as online art galleries and auction houses popping up, joining the likes of Saatchi Art, Artspace and Paddle8—the global online art market is booming.
“Increasingly, art collectors are global in their thinking. Being a collector can mean different things to different people, the best possible outcome for everyone is having the tools and markets available to them to be able to realise their collecting ambitions,” says Thomas Galbraith, a partner of The Petraeus Group, where he consults with start-ups and companies focused on the luxury and art markets on online growth strategies in particular.
In town for the inaugural Art World Forum, a platform for open discourse among industry experts, opinion leaders and art collectors, held on October 18, at The St Regis Singapore, the former managing director of online auction start-up Paddle8 and director of global strategy of Artnet, an online resource on the international art market, talks about adapting to the digital paradigm and what collectors should note when buying art online.
How is technology changing the art market? Do you see a major shift to online art galleries and auction houses when it comes to buying and selling art today?
Thomas Galbraith The art market is going through some of the same developments that other major creative industries went through in the 2000s. The efficiencies of being online, lower operational costs, wider audience, and so on, are changing the way old and new art companies are approaching their business. Ten years ago, very little art was selling online and usually for a small price point. Today, billions of dollars are sold online and at higher and higher prices.
What is the main advantage of online art galleries and auction houses that traditional platforms cannot offer?
Galbraith The business models are really quite different, many of the advantages you’d expect—lower operational costs, for example—are still present, but so are some you may not expect. Often it’s assumed selling art must include an in-person pitch and a big white box gallery with staff all dressed in black. In reality, that can be intimidating and unnecessary. I’ve seen many, very wealthy collectors, choose to buy online simply because they don't want a sales person pestering them—something that happens on a minute-by-minute basis for these billionaires. The anonymity online affords people can also encourage them to buy without inhibition.
As the art world increasingly becomes more globalised, what is one factor that collectors need to keep in mind when buying art?
Galbraith Often times the cost of ownership is overlooked. Purchasing art with a dealer or an auction house is only the beginning. Yes, there may be commissions, fees and such to purchase, it’s important to consider what other costs will be incurred—shipping, installation, insurance—buying art is both a pleasure and an investment.
What is a common refrain you often hear from collectors when it comes to buying art online? What can be done to alleviate this anxiety?
Galbraith There can be many different concerns—is it real, am I going to actual get what I bought, is the colour the same, and so on. Perhaps, the single biggest disconnect is expectations around post sale and delivery. Online buyers are so used to Amazon and other online retailers that they often aren’t prepared for the fact that online shipping and logistics require extended time frames.
How are millennials consuming art?
Galbraith Younger collectors are embracing online art buying. They are more engaged, more informed and faster to act than before. Access today is unlike it’s ever been before, and people are taking full advantage of that.