Why Should We Buy Art Online?
Michiel Vliegenthart (1966) is a specialist in antique prints, the agent of the Dutch photographers Dik Nicolai and Phoebe Rudomino, and an art collector himself. Through his work, Vliegenthart has been keeping a close eye on recent developments in the art world. We spoke to him about the importance and the advantages that online platforms offer to art lovers.
Lately, there seems to be an increase in the online purchase of artworks. What are the biggest advantages for art collectors?
The internet is suitable for both novice and experienced collectors. It opens up the international art market, making it the ideal source to develop your taste and preferences. I’ve been strolling through the web for years, always in search of interesting artefacts. Next to that, there is a major practical advantage: you’re never limited to the opening hours of physical galleries or auction houses. You can browse through the entire international art market, any time you want, from the comfort of your own home!
To what extent do you feel that galleries and art dealers are adapting to this trend, do you see galleries focussing more and more on online sales?
Definitely, although this shift is a slow process, galleries are now realizing that through an online platform they have an unlimited access to an international group of potential art buyers. Through online profiles, galleries can acquire information on certain preferences and trends among art collectors. For the first time you can make as many artworks as you want visible for an enormous audience. Artefacts people never knew existed, are now visible for everyone through high resolution images! Especially for collectors, this is a very interesting development. This could also explain the big success of online auction houses.
Do you expect auction houses and art galleries to showcase exclusively through online channels in the future?
I am no visionary, but I don’t expect physical auction houses and galleries to become obsolete. There is a trend of a growing, younger group becoming more and more interested in art and the buying of artworks. These individuals grew up using the technology of the internet therefore expect a certain level of quality in online services. In that aspect I do foresee a stronger role for online art platforms that can live up to these expectations. On the other hand, I believe that a physical visit to an art gallery it's a whole different experience altogether, and consequently will always exist alongside online platforms.
How do you feel about the often-heard argument that galleries know their target group and thus have no need to expand their clientele?
I believe that it’s an outdated idea to think that you should offer a selective collection to a selective group of people. You underestimate the modern art lover who is independent enough to create and follow its own preference and personal taste. Let him or her decide if they like something or not. But whatever you do, make sure you exhibit as much as you can!
What are the differences between the online art buyers and the traditional pyshical art buyers?
You should ask the online marketers! I think that online shoppers opt for a wider range of artworks and styles and really love the convenience that online shopping offers. To many, the traditional auction houses have an exclusive and fancy image, offering expensive objects on expensive terms.
Which artworks sell particularly well online?
Fine art photography, paintings, works on paper (prints), sculptures and collectibles. Especially art with a strong visual aspect such as photography, paintings, drawings and prints are perfect for online sales. But don’t underestimate the online potential of collectibles such as silver, jewellery, glass art, ceramics, comic books and archaeological discoveries. Of course there are certain art objects that you will literally need to touch with your hands in order to get a good impression. Modern day technology also solves that problem; there are now tools that allow you to view the smallest details of a painting, including the crackle and varnish! That and several other online options, are getting awfully close to a physical visit.
Written by Laura Inzaurralde Suarez