Recently, the top galleries in the online art industry convened in New York for a panel discussion hosted by my company, UGallery, on the future of the space. The timing was ideal, as it came right after a report found that the online art market is expected to hit nearly $4 billion in sales in the next five years. I was joined by representatives from Artspace, Saatchi Art, Artsicle and Artsy -- with the Huffington Post's own Mallika Rao moderating -- to discuss the industry's future.
For those who weren't able to attend, you can see a full video of the discussion below (or highlights above). I also condensed the hour-long event into 5 key takeaway points that demonstrate just how e-commerce is ready to take advantage of the $65 billion art market.
1. Online Art is Benefiting the Art Category
The online channel has no geographic, physical space or income barriers -- most online galleries sell at a number of price points -- thus providing collectors access to a much larger selection of artwork while growing (and benefiting) the category as a whole. An artist in rural New Mexico can connect with a high-profile collector in Hong Kong, for instance. The boundary-less nature of online art galleries opens up the market like never before.
2. The Online Channel Democratizes the Art Industry
The value of artwork is no longer determined by a few elite patrons or galleries. Online art galleries open the category to all consumers, no matter their income, and provide price transparency, thus allowing market factors to influence value and democratizing the industry as a whole.
3. Online and Offline Channels are Complementary
Online galleries are now representing artists on a similar level as a physical gallery. The online channel provides artists more exposure and generates sales to a broader, more worldwide collector base. The two channels -- offline and online -- will continue to co-exist and complement each other, though we will continue to see a shift in people experiencing art online.
4. Technology will Continue to Advance the Category
Online art is bringing art education to anyone with an Internet connection. Clients can research an artist's background and past sales before deciding to purchase. As advancements are made in photography and pixel resolution, artists can exhibit artwork online as accurately as offline. Furthermore, mobile apps and location-based technology allow collectors to find and follow both artists and galleries at open studio tours and art fairs. Technology is enabling the category to expand; it is removing physical barriers while bringing art to new markets and collectors.
5. Online is Introducing Art to a New Demographic of Collectors
Shopping and researching products online is second nature to millennials. Online art companies are introducing original art to a younger demographic who wouldn't otherwise visit brick and mortar galleries. An increasing number of young people are being exposed to art, regardless of the location and/or the intimidation factor. We saw this phenomenon in a recent study we conducted, which found that millennials were 4x more likely to buy art online.
Ultimately, all of the panelists, myself included, agreed the physical gallery isn't going anywhere and certainly won't be outright replaced by online galleries in the immediate term. At the same time, there's no shortage of talented artists out there, and the online space provides a powerful medium through which many of these artists can succeed by effectively removing many of the traditional barriers to entry.
I'm often reminded of this success by UGallery's own Piero Manrique, a Peruvian artist who has sold more than $80,000 worth of art through our online gallery. While not everyone can accomplish such an achievement, Piero's story resonated with everyone that night. And he's just one of the many examples of how the market is complementing and often enhancing the art industry as a whole.
Here's a full video of the "THE ONLINE ART INDUSTRY -- WHAT'S NEXT?" panel, for those interested:
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