A thriving entrepreneur, artist, and e-professional (Notrefamille.com, Cadeaux.com, Youscribe), Sonia Rameau decided in 2013 to mobilize her expertise within the web to fund Artistics, one of the first contemporary art online platforms. Along with other art aficionados, she began building a platform where it is possible to discover, view and purchase unique art pieces of photography, sculpture, and painting. With her forward-looking approach, she was early to spot the right digital tools that would allow collectors to virtually discover the universe of multiple artists - about 40 today - especially thanks to a 360° degree video visualization tool through which one can discover each artists’ studio and work.
More than an issue to solve, I wanted to catch an opportunity: to leverage the power of the web to give visibility to many artists who deserve to be known. Indeed the contemporary art market is extremely pyramidal and only a few artists are supported by galleries and collectors, meaning that only a select few have access to international recognition while the majority remain in the shadows. Even specialized media only talk about big artists. As a result, I wanted to use the amazing tool of the internet to remedy this.
The art market is without a doubt one of the last to start its digital revolution, and the great news is that everything remains to be done and invented. The online art market is no longer so embryonic. The latest Hiscox study estimates it at $ 4.6 billion, more than three times its value in 2013! However, in most cases, we continue to sell works of art as we did in the early 2000s: with a couple of low-quality pictures. The impossibility of physically seeing the artwork remains the main obstacle for many buyers, so I truly think that a digital innovation that improves the experience of viewing art on screens constitutes a great opportunity. Indeed it would definitely break the obstacles to purchase art online.
There is, of course, some resistance in online sales of art due to the codes and practices at supporting the traditional market. For instance, the price opacity is hardly compatible with e-commerce. I also think that digital requires specific skills that may not be available to traditional actors. Moreover, the galleries’ economic fragility is slowing innovation for dealers. In this context, they are waiting for a certain maturity in the market to invest in this area.
I think it forces more transparency, which is positive for the art market since this was an issue that was reflecting negatively on its image. The online market’s development enables dealers to reach a new audience and art aficionados to start a collection. The other important change for me is the borderless aspect of the web. Today, collectors from the Middle East, North America, and Asia are discovering and buying on Artistics the works of artists who, for some, have never exhibited outside of their origin country.
After 5 years of working on this project, we are always surprised to see how much the persona of online buyers differs from the archetype. We count among our customers both young thirty-somethings who are starting their collection with a 500€ photo print, but also knowledgeable collectors who can buy a 10 000€ sculpture online. Their common point is to be comfortable enough with online purchasing to consider committing a substantial budget. According to a Hiscox study, in 2018, 73% of people who bought art online already purchased goods on the internet for a similar amount.
Firstly, I believe that the consuming shift of Millennials is not limited only to their purchasing behavior. For instance, 20-40-year-olds don’t have the same tastes and the same reasons to collect than their elders. They also do not use the same networks to discover artworks or artists. Regarding their buying behavior, my experience is similar to the studies: there is less a priori compared to the Boomers and better digital responsiveness, leading to a more volatile and demanding relationship with the sellers.
Both for artists and sellers, the biggest challenge is to find their place in a bipolar market. On one hand, there are mega-galleries with unlimited financial resources competing in favor of the big collectors, and on the other, a network of thousands of galleries with limited resources that have to cope with ever-increasing burdens (rents from big cities, cost of participating in fairs, etc.) and fierce competition. If the web allows merchants to access a wider market, it also allows collectors to deal with more gallery owners. Which comes with a crucial need to find reliable professionals, able to understand them and accompany them in the constitution of their collection.
I would say it depends on the location of the client. For example, in the context of a non-EU sale, transport quickly becomes an important part of the purchase decision because its impact on the price can be significant. And even when the cost is not a problem, transport remains a source of questions which can compromise the sale: delays, risks of damage, taxes and customs clearance are elements which generate recurring questions from customers.
We usually take care of the logistics from A to Z. For two years now we have been working regularly with Convelio from which we really appreciate the responsiveness and seriousness. Since we don’t stock a lot, the pieces are usually shipped directly from the artist's studio to the delivery address provided by the customer, which can be anywhere in the world. Each order is, therefore, the subject of an ad hoc estimate, which takes into account the specificities of the work (dimensions, fragility, value ...) and the specific requests that can be expressed by the customer (delivery on a specific date, clinging service ...). Thanks to Convelio, we are quickly getting proposals for complex transports in addition to a new online platform that allows us to access real-time quotes, saving us a lot of time. The offer is competitive and we enjoy working with motivated and ambitious teams.
So far, we have focused on the content production to allow a better discovery of art online: video tours of artists' studios, 360 ° views for sculptures, 5D scans for paintings ... The next step will be to generalize these solutions to each work on the site while integrating them more into visit itineraries. The idea is to welcome each new visitor, so that they are oriented quickly towards works likely to interest them, so that we can then offer a real immersion in the world of the artist and in the work of their choice.