How to buy art online: ‘Every click is a discovery’

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This year, as many of us are still staying at home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, and while art fairs and galleries take much of their operations to the web, many collectors are still supporting their favorite galleries and fairs by buying art via online channels. In fact, in these times of physical separation, as the Lima-based collector Carlos Marsano recently said during an Art Basel Conversation, ‘Collecting is connecting.’

‘If you think about it,’ says Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel, ‘a few months ago, this industry was primarily working using email and PDFs, but there has now been an enormous digital renaissance. If the result is that people are able to connect globally in a new way, it will mean a very positive outcome from a very negative thing.’

While new collectors might want to start small, it’s worth noting that others have already jumped into deeper waters online. Even within the first half-hour of Art Basel Hong Kong, the fair’s first all-online edition, Gagosian gallery had sold a Mary Weatherford work, one of her trademark paintings with neon lights attached, for $750,000.

In some ways, now is a better time to buy online than ever, due to increased transparency in pricing. More and more fairs and galleries are making prices (or price ranges) visible to all; every artwork at Art Basel Hong Kong was tagged with how much it cost, and this will also be the case with the Online Viewing Rooms, which are going live later this month.

The good news for the collector who might be wary of buying online is that galleries are getting creative and beefing up the experience they can offer, literally coming to collectors in their homes, allowing potential buyers to have the same kind of informative experience that they would normally get through in-person conversations with art dealers – and more.

Of course, there is much that visiting galleries and fairs online can’t match the in-person experience. ‘You miss the social aspect of being at the fair and seeing your friends,’ says Ariel Bentata, who collects with his wife, Daphna Bentata. Ariel is a founding and managing partner at Accesso, a full-service real-estate-development firm based in Florida that has offices throughout the US; Daphna sells and invests in residential real estate. ‘And you miss the information that the gallery provides you when you’re looking at work in person. On the other hand, online art fairs democratize the process, since every exhibitor is given the same weight on the screen, so you learn about more artists.’ And when you visit a fair in person, Ariel highlights, you prioritize the booths of galleries that you already have a relationship with and may not visit all those exhibiting. Art fairs remaining open online for a longer time than they would if they were held in the real world, he says, allows the couple to visit every gallery. ‘Certainly, we miss discovering things by happenstance,’ he says, but then again, ‘every click is a discovery.’


Edited by BeLife. Oct 2020

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