The fourth part of this series looks at the traditional gallery space.  Admittedly I know least about the traditional art space and running a gallery. However, if you look at the top four stats given by the report on galleries to me you have an industry on its heels and in survival mode.  

  • 74% of the galleries surveyed believe online art sales will grow by less than 10% in the next 12 months.
  • 82% worry about reaching and finding the right clients.
  • 55% are concerned about not having a face-to-face relationship with their clients.
  • 36% of galleries don’t yet have a clear online sales strategy.

Of course, galleries aren’t going to be selling a lot online (59% still say this channel accounts for less than 5% of total sales) the question is, why do few adapt?  27% of galleries said they plan to partner with an online platform to sell their art.  But are you surprised, CEO of 1stDibs Rosenblatt saysTo date we’ve seen almost no adaptation . . . So far it appears it has not been a priority for them.” And the results are astounding, small and medium sized galleries continue to close

The two questions I have are: How do artists fit into this if most online platforms are designed to be the intermediary? If online galleries are trying to go offline and offline galleries are trying to go online, where do synergies form?


Artist + Gallery + Online Gallery =

Let’s consider galleries trying to use third party sites as sales channels, which I think that is smart, but the question is what then does the artist get out of having a relationship with the gallery in the first place rather than going directly to the online platforms?  I suppose the gallery would continue to add value to the artist in the form of services (storing and shipping their work) for pieces sold online, writing their bios, or creating content which could really help them sell online (talked about this in Part II); in addition to showcasing their work at their location, galleries can take these pieces to art fairs, etc. Overall, I am not sure selling with offline galleries (who take 50%) is a good deal for the artist; but if it helps artists sell more than they would in the physical gallery space then that is more money for the artist. I could see galleries playing more of an agency model role, similar to what Andreessen Horowitz did in VC or CAA did for Actors.  I think the agency model would be beneficial to both parties.


Cyborgs of the Art World

If online galleries are setting up offline galleries, and offline galleries want to go online, at what point are we able to separate the two. It would make more sense (to me) for the two areas to partner.  In fact, what if online galleries partnered with one offline gallery in say 30 different cities.  The offline gallery would devote say x% of space to artists from the online gallery, and the online gallery would further promote the offline galleries artists / give them more commission. I realize brand, representation, and art world bullshit could make this difficult; however, there are online and offline galleries with a variety of looks and feels so inevitably you would find synergy.  It’s also a great risk-free way to pilot something.

I do believe that it is important for online galleries to have an offline presence.  But I also believe it’s not economically feasible to sustain a single brick and mortar space.  I would create a pop up (moving gallery), do one a month and hold them not just in commercial spaces but also in the homes of your buyers.  Invite all of your collectors/browsers in the area as well as artists.  This would give it a more accessible feel and a sense of community.  Have some wine and a string quartet and for little money you could create a magical experience that will help engage your artists, build your buyer community and spread word of mouth all for a fraction of the cost.


The Future

Now that I’ve addressed the future of the art market’s various platforms (both on and offline), it’s necessary to discuss what this all means for the most important people who make all this possible: the artists. In my next post, I will be addressing the ‘forgotten artist’ and his/her place in the online art market. Where did the online art market fall short in assisting artists? How can we improve the artist’s experience? These are some of the topics that will be discussed next week; stay tuned 🙂


Reviewing the Art Market Series 2017