Published: August 8, 2000
As more and more artists launch their own websites, the Internet is steadily becoming the gallery showing they never had. More than 70 major websites now offer art for sale, from the flea market atmosphere of ebay.com to the more selective sites for discerning palates like Artnet, sothebys.com, and Auctionwatch, to name a few.
The website icollector.com serves as an online mall for 300 auction sites and 650 galleries. With the click of the mouse, the e-commerce of fine art has brought big profits: The average sale on icollector.com ranges from $600 to $1,200, compared to $35 per sale for ebay.com.
As with any cyberspace purchase, the catchphrase is caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware of buying art that he cannot see or hold in his hands. An incident on eBay in May highlighted one of the risks of on-line buying when an abstract painting passed off as the work of renowned artist Richard Diebenkorn was auctioned off for $135,000. Upon closer inspection, however, it was found to be a fake and the sale was stopped.
How then do buyers of online art trust that their purchases are indeed the real thing? Clint Cantwell, icollector.com’s Vice President for North America, told CBS News Sunday Morning on August 6 that one way to ensure authenticity is by being a business-to-consumer as well as a business-to-business internet site, instead of conducting business person-to-person in the manner of ebay.com, for example. Cantwell says icollector.com works exclusively with reputable auction houses and dealers for one, and they also offer their own “iguarantee” – a $50,000 insurance policy protecting purchases made on their site from fraud or damage.
As consumers become more comfortable and savvy with the notion of e-commerce, icollector.com expects even pricier rdf_Descriptions to sell on their site. Recently a Picasso lithograph sold for $11,400 in an on-line icollector auction. A very pricey purchase if you consider the buyer never even saw the work up close and in person.
Last year 29 million Americans made some type of online purchase; it’s the power behind the Internet that has changed the concept of buying art with its spontaneity and instant gratification factor. The Web has also given a new power to artists as well. By gauging the popularity of sales and “hits” on their own websites, artists can now custom tailor the marketing of their work to a worldwide audience, and in essence create their own world-wide gallery.
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