The fine art industry–we’re talking about the Christie’s auctions and the multi-million dollar sharks here–has a long, proud tradition of stuffiness. Its collectors are often richer, older citizens who would rather hire an art adviser than browse for paintings on the internet, and many start-ups have met doom attempting to bring the market to the web. (“It’s like being in a movie,” as Art.sy’s Carter Cleveland put it. “The knight is walking into the dragon’s lair and seeing the corpses of all the other knights that came before.”)
But increasingly, art buying is coming online, writes Mike Miller at Betabeat affiliate The New York Observer, despite resistance from the art world. Last year, 28 percent of the art sold through Christie’s–a total of $114.4 million–was purchased online.
“When this was attempted 10 years ago, it failed very spectacularly,” Alexander Gilkes, founder of the art site Paddle8, told The Observer. “You have to understand the internet landscape evolved significantly with new technologies to allow this kind of new media, but [there’s] also the generational question: 10 years ago, those who had the means to buy art were not an internet-entrenched audience. And today, those who have the means to buy art, the 25-and-older audience, has been brought up on the internet and has complete faith.”
The generational question is one of many causes of fear and mistrust in the art world. Some curators and gallery owners worry that sites like Paddle8 and Art.sy are poor substitutes for seeing art in person.
There’s also the sense that fine art shouldn’t be too accessible–it’s high brow, you know, whereas the internet is for the unwashed masses. “The art world won’t be entirely democratic ever,” said one gallery owner who launched an online art exhibition.