The Future of Online Art Sales: Q&A With Artspace Co-founders – artmarketblog.com
The number of websites that facilitate the online sale and purchase of fine art has increased significantly over the last few years as collectors and investors become more confident in the ability of online art sales portals to provide a sufficiently high level of service, quality art, security and peace of mind.
According to their website, Artspace.com is the premier online marketplace for contemporary art, offering collectors and aspiring collectors the opportunity to discover, learn about and collect art from the top contemporary artists in the world at insider prices. Artspace curators collaborate with internationally renowned artists, museums and galleries to provide the world’s best collection of contemporary art online, in a single location.
Artspace serves as a trusted art advisor offering information and education on every featured artist and work on the site in order to provide members with the details they need to make informed and confident purchase decisions. Membership to Artspace is free, prices start at $200 and every sale of artwork on the site supports an artist, cultural institution or non-profit organization.
In this series of interviews, Nicholas Forrest, owner of the Art Market Blog, talks to some of the most influential leaders of the online art market about the future of online art sales and the development of the online art market. In this, the fifth interview of the series, Artspace co-founders Catherine Levene and Christopher Vroom discuss the success of the Artspace.com site.
1. Has the online market for fine art matured to a point where stand-alone ventures relying on the sale of online art are a viable option?
Chris Vroom: The global market for fine art exceeds $80b and while the category is in the early stages of internet transformation, stand-along ventures have become viable due to the explosion in the art-interested user base not only in the US, but around the world.
2. How would you rate your success?
Chris Vroom: We’re thrilled that, in just over a year, we have become the leading curated e-commerce site on the web and the only destination where works by top artists are available from museums, cultural institutions, non-profits, galleries and artists directly. And collectors are certainly taking note… we have sold work to people in 40 states and more than 20 countries so we’re already known globally.
3. What has been the most significant sale for you to date?
Catherine Levene: We’re targeting the mass affluent buyer, but count many top 200 collectors in our membership; our biggest online sale was a $125,000 sculpture by Jenny Holzer.
4. We already have online art fairs, galleries and auctions; what is the next step for online art sales?
Chris Vroom: That would be telling. We think that online sales of fine art are in the very early days and that, longer-term, the web will account for fully $10 billion of this segment.
5. How do you attract and keep online buyers of fine art?
Catherine Levene: There is a huge global audience who is interested in art, but has no easy access. By providing access to a curated selection of works from the best artists, galleries and museums in the world, at great prices and adding unique editorial to engage users via the web, email and social media, we have attracted a very large and loyal following.
6. What are the characteristics of the main buyers of fine art online?
Chris Vroom: Our customers are affluent, aged 30-60, highly educated, purchase works from galleries, attend and support art fairs and museums and consider themselves to be collectors.
7. Which countries are the most active with regards to buying art online?
Chris Vroom: As you might expect, the United States is our biggest market, but we’ve sold to 20+ countries across six continents, with Australia and the United Kingdom being standouts.
8. How would you describe the current environment for online art sales?
Catherine Levene: It’s Growing rapidly. We believe that the next generation of collectors will expect to buy some portion of their art online.
9. Which mediums are the most popular with online art buyers?
Chris Vroom: We sell across all mediums but photography does best with a surprising level of sculptural objects placed with collectors around the world.
10. How does your company best take advantage of the online market for fine art?
Chris Vroom: We’re serving the entire arts ecosystem, thereby creating a destination with broad appeal. We e-commerce enable art fairs, museums, non-profits, help expand the gallery walls virtually, and give artists a new channel of outreach to sustain their practice.
Catherine Levene: Moreover, we create unique editorial that reaches a global audience and helps educate the market about the artists work and practice. Finally, since the internet is 24/7, there are no space constraints or geographical boundaries so we are able to expand the existing market and help all the constituents involved reach broader audiences.
11. What are your plans for the future?
Chris Vroom: Artspace will continue to add premier museum and gallery partners while commissioning projects that both extend artistic practice and support worthwhile institutional programming and non-profit objectives; we’re working on projects currently with Barry McGee, Taryn Simon, Adam Bartos, Jessica Craig-Martin and other fantastic artists.
CHRISTOPHER VROOM, CO-FOUNDER, CHAIRMAN & EVP, ARTSPACE.COM
Chris Vroom, a well-known patron of the arts and an avid contemporary art collector, is the Founder, Chairman and Executive Vice President of Artspace. Credited as the vision behind the business, Vroom is responsible for initiating and managing relationships with artists and institutions that sell works on the Artspace platform. Vroom grew up in New York City around the block from the prominent National Arts Club in Gramercy Park. He attended public school in the area and went on to receive his BA from The University of Chicago in 1987. Although benefiting from a solid liberal arts education, Vroom worked as a financial analyst specializing in consumer group and e-commerce equity research spaces for nearly twenty years where he was a Managing Director and Global Group Head in the CSFB Technology Group.
While working as a research analyst, Vroom became convinced of the vital role played by artists in the foundation of creative culture and at the same time was surprised to learn that there were few systems designed to help them succeed. In response to the elimination of NEA Artist Fellowships and after a year of research dedicated to identifying the greatest need, Vroom founded Artadia – the Fund for Art and Dialogue, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting artists directly through financial awards, public exposure, and access to a national network of support. Since 1999, Artadia has provided nearly $3 million in total support to 250 artists living in San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Boston, New York and Atlanta.
Through his non-profit activities, Vroom recognized the challenges faced by artists and cultural institutions alike in reaching new audiences. At the same time, as a collector of art himself, he understood the difficulty in finding a broad selection of artworks based on personal preferences. Vroom designed Artspace to address these challenges while simultaneously creating a powerful new distribution channel for artists, institutions and non-profits in addition to offering collectors at all levels a curated selection of artworks from top contemporary artists.
CATHERINE LEVENE, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, ARTSPACE.COM
As a digital media innovator and entrepreneur with over fifteen years of experience building successful online media companies, Catherine is responsible for the overall day-to-day management of Artspace. Most recently, Catherine held the position of COO and General Manager of DailyCandy, a leading daily e-mail and website targeted to women that focuses on the latest trends in fashion, food and culture.
Prior to joining DailyCandy, Catherine was part of the executive team at start-up shopping search engine, TheFind.com, where she served as Senior Vice President of Product and General Manager of Content and Distribution. In addition, Catherine spent seven years at New York Times Digital (NYTD), building the online properties of the New York Times Company, including nytimes.com. Catherine currently advises early stage internet companies in media and commerce and sits on the boards ofTheFind.com and RenttheRunway.com.
Catherine received a B.A. in history from the University of Pennsylvania and, concurrently, a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School of Business in 1992. She earned her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1996.
**Nicholas Forrest is a Sydney/London based art market analyst, art consultant and writer. He is the founder of the Art Market Blog (artmarketblog.com) which offers independent commentaries as well as research and analysis on the current art market, and has recently been published in Fabrik magazine, Verve magazine, Visual Art Beat magazine, Australian Art Collector magazine, Art & Investment magazine and many others. Nic has made several radio appearances (both nationally and internationally) as an art market expert and has received press from the likes of the New York Times, Conde Nast Portfolio and Times of London.
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