Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brian Sherwin's thoughts on VIP Art Fair-- I Told You So!

My thoughts on VIP Art Fair-- I Told You So!

When I first heard about VIP Art Fair I was certain that the mainstream art world would launch into attack mode. After all, it is not hard to find notable art critics and art dealers who are vocal against the concept of selling art online. That said, it appears VIP Art Fair has received a ‘Get out of jail free’ card from some of those very critics. I’m not going to land myself in the mess of calling out names-- but those in the staple art blogging community know who they are and what they have said about selling art online in the past.

It is safe to say that anyone reading this blog knows of my work with Since 2006 I’ve been thrown into the fray as to whether or not selling art online is viable within the global art market. Having worked for an artists social networking site that happens to have eCommerce capability it goes without saying that I feel that selling art online is a viable solution for the art collector of today-- and more specifically tomorrow-- and that both artists and art dealers can benefit from online efforts toward that goal.

For example, in a Myartspace Blog article titled 'Art Prices Drop. Galleries Close Doors. Auction House Cuts Jobs.', which was posted on January 14th 2009, I stated, “Now is the time for artists, art dealers, and even auction houses to rethink the ways in which they sustain themselves during turbulent times.” I was referring to the importance of eCommerce and online exposure. Obviously the founders of VIP Art Fair-- and the galleries involved-- are rethinking how art can be sold. They are breaking from the traditional structure of the art market.

Prior to that article I wrestled with the topic. In a Myartspace Blog article titled 'Art and Recession: Time to Adapt', which was posted on November 6th 2008, I stated, “I think that some galleries may learn to appreciate ecommerce and other marketing strategies that are considered unconventional by the blunt of the art world at this time-- such as utilizing online social networking for exposure and global reach.”. Indeed-- if VIP Art Fair is successful I’m certain that gallerists worldwide will be more apt to embrace what the Internet can provide as far a selling art is concerned.

In another article, titled 'eCommerce is a Welcome Addition to the Art Market', I stated, “The possibility of a great shift makes sense when you consider the number of artists who have been utilizing the internet in order to gain exposure as well as the number who have explored the potential of eCommerce in recent years. It goes without saying that artists are leading this charge-- and that is exactly why gallerists will eventually pursue it in mass.”

I went on to say that, “galleries will have to fill a need that the artists they represent obviously desire-- the need for high online visibility and alternative marketing by utilizing eCommerce.” My guess is that artists in the near future will expect this from those who represent them.”. Again, VIP Art Fair-- if successful-- will give more credibility to what artists the world over already know-- that selling art online is viable and that online visibility is crucial for success.

In many of my past Myartspace Blog articles I wrote about the fact that the younger generation of artists and art collectors-- specifically the artists and art buyers of the future-- will come to expect an art market that is integrated with online efforts. Needless to say, in the past the blunt of my opinions concerning selling art online and online visibility have been scoffed at by specific individuals who apparently know more about the art market than I do-- so the praise they are giving for VIP Art Fair as being “brilliant” and “revolutionary” has hit me with one of those ‘I told you so!’ moments.

I know there is a degree of elbow-rubbing going on from some of these voices due to the status behind those involved with VIP Art Fair-- but I must say that I’m loving every bit of it! It is great to see that some of the more stuffy art critics, art dealers, and artists within the mainstream art world are now letting their guard down enough to at least consider the possibilities of selling art online and how profitable it may be in the future.

In closing, I do hope that history will remember that artists-- specifically emerging artists-- lead this charge. Emerging artists the world over embraced the capabilities of the World Wide Web and eCommerce long before galleries did-- and before art fairs became a mainstay of the art market. It just goes to show that sometimes the art market would be better off if the powers that be listened to artists. I firmly believe that artists are often more business savvy than art dealers realize.

Link of interest:

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


  1. Excellent post. Yes, I was laughed at, and even ridiculed when I said I was selling my work online about 8 years ago. Just goes to show that the old school is not necessarily the best school. Good post, I will be sharing.

  2. The money grubbing New York gallery scene clique and their spawn in many cities held a terrible and polluted grip on art for many years. That's where the anti-internet, anti-art fair, garage studio and sidewalk sale movement begins. Art is as irresistible as wind. It's always coming, sooner or later, everywhere. In art, snobbery is a foolhardy pursuit, shoveling sand against a tide.
    Changes in literature and art via the internet are profound, disturbing and a wild new, fertile exciting place. Jump in. Art is going full throttle in the 21st century.

  3. Julia, thanks for sharing this info! As I mentioned-- I do hope that history remembers that artists made the push online.

    Rand, what they tend to forget is that they are nothing without artists. Honestly, what worth does a gallerist, art critic, or curator have if not for artists who create the art? They should all be thankful-- but as you know that is not always the case.

  4. I've been on since 2/99. my intent: simply to put a portfolio up for others to view, and to organize all my works. i paint, draw, hand-letter because i am compelled to do so, regardless of sales, galleries of even getting noticed. keep art in the hands of the artist and onto the walls of the people. isn't that what it's all about anyway? didn't the impressionists create their own showing, when galleries failed to represent them? big fail for those whose only interest is as you aptly put it "hype" art.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly. For at least the last year and a half, my online sales has been way ahead of gallery sales.

  6. With so many voices, artists, collectors, buyers, and galleries in the world - the pip squeak noises we make about the art market online, falls on deaf airs - in the end the market follows the money.
    My issue is the content and nature of art sold - money always has a way of changing things. The big players are very big, and the big in their own head types just follow along.
    As one in millions of artists online or not, I just have to keep plugging away at it - but as good as the internet is, I can't help but think we all get lost in it's ever expanding network of art stuff and artists.
    The growth of all this stuff is not lineal but exponential - no one can manage it or control it - in some ways a physical gallery in a physical space has many merits. One question that seems to be not asked is what problems will arise as the online market grows, replicates and complicates - to me this is the real issue, not who got where first.

  7. Howard, I'm not so sure that what is 'said' online falls on deaf ears. If that were the case you would not see examples of published art writers taking jabs at the art blogging community as a whole-- which does happen ever so often.

    Artists, collectors, buyers-- and even galleries have been influenced by the whims of top art publicaton writers for decades. That said, those publications don't have the control over art content as they once did. Which is why we have seen a few scramble to establish a presence online.

    As for physical galleries-- specifically the mainstream scene-- one could say that there is an issue of control that surrounds the art market as it is. Bias surrounds the art market. Thus, further acceptance of selling/buying art online may expand the art market as whole so that other ideas come into the fold.

    I think traditional art dealers who downplay the importance of the internet-- specifically eCommerce-- do so out of fear of...

    1.) having to adapt to ways that business can be conducted.

    2.) out of fear that maybe, just maybe, they will lose buyers to art dealers who embrace the changing market.

    3.) out of fear that perhaps artists will grow to rely on their own marketing efforts instead of seeking representation.

    The bottom line is that the structure of the art market will change just as other markets have changed. I firmly believe that the art buyers of tomorrow will expect to be able to buy the blunt of their collection without ever having stepped foot in a gallery for those purchases.

    I know some people frown upon that idea-- but does it really matter as long as art ends up displayed somewhere and money is made?

  8. Do you have any data showing what sales of art from individual artists are via their websites? (I see lots of people try Etsy and the like, but the average item sold on Etsy is around $17. Can one really make a profit at that low price?)

    Does anyone (or many people) spend $500 - thousands of $$$ on a painting (or other work of art) just from seeing a small, jpeg photo of it on XYZ-UnknownArtist's web site?

  9. Charles-- it can happen. I know a collector who bought a piece from an artist for over $1,000 and he never observed her work in person before that. However, she had an exhibit history to back her work. I do think it is important for artists to provide a CV on their website!

    I think the goal for artists-- if they want to do well selling online-- is to become known. In other words, you want potential buyers to be able to find content about you after doing a mere search of your name. So work hard to get interviewed by online art magazines or by respected art bloggers.

    Having a website is important-- but it is also important to work on branding your name. I know, I know... that sounds corporate and all that jazz. However, if you want to earn a profit from your art you have to take on some of the same tasks that big business tends to do.

    Also, you'd be surprised how much artists can make selling $20 works of art as long as the material cost of creating the piece is low.