The art world has been the last industry to feel the effects of technology. However the pandemic has accelerated the need to go online. Yet there’s been a disconnect between art sold and invested dollars into technology. Many are not buying as much fine art online as they were before. Despite this, there have been many new trends in the art market that have been disrupted by technology.
The art world has always been controlled by gatekeepers.
The gatekeepers have always been art galleries. Galleries find artists show their work, and collectors visit galleries to buy the work of these artists. However with the rise in social media and direct to consumer methods, artists are able to connect directly with their fans.
The best example of this is Brooklyn based artist Kaws who was able to amass a massive following on social media. Kaws is an interesting example of an artist straddling the line between the old art world and the new one. He is able to sell open edition toy sculptures to new collectors in the less than one thousand dollar price point while working with his gallery (Skarstedt) to place his million dollar unique works. CJ Hendry another New York artist has real pencil drawings that are sold direct to collectors. She has never had gallery representation and most of her buzz has come from word of mouth and social media which has led to some impressive sales numbers on the auction block.
Galleries are gaining more power
Despite the feeling that galleries might be losing control similar to how YouTube seemed to have stripped power from the mainstream media, it is in fact the opposite. With so many artists out there, it is hard to find that work that you like for the price you want to pay. Galleries play a role in helping you curate the artists out there and help you try to find a return on your investment. The latter point has led us to an explosion of prints and licensable goods from the biggest artists, where these artists run away exponentially with the market, like Kaws, or older more established artists like Haring, Warhol, Lichtenstein. Yet these products can now be sold direct to consumer.
Influencers play a big role in how art is portrayed online especially on Instagram.
Instead of originals many collectors do want prints to help them be associated with the influencers. With the new Kaws, and fashion crossovers like Daniel Arsham, Piet Parra, the line between streetwear and art has blurred. Supreme shirts and Nike sneakers sell at Sothebys next to original canvases and sculptures. This wearable art has led artists to rethink their work and how they can express themselves while letting influencers express themselves via their art. Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms are one of the best examples of incorporating the selfie into the art. As more and more people are able to showcase their wares via social media, a flood of fakes and “borrowed art” have flowed onto social media feeds.
The latest frontier in the innovation of the old stodgy art world is ownership.
Recently the NFT craze is trying to solve that issue. If it works remains to be seen. However as the world goes more and more online what better way to monetize something that inherently wants to be free than to actually own it? That’s what NFTs do. We’ve written a lot about NFTs before (here and here). And similar to Kaws the old art world is grumpy about it. Why? Because they can’t seem to figure out how to make money on it (at least Kaws took his following, and got a “real” gallery to represent him). The NFT is a departure from the traditional way of doing business because it’s essence is a contract between two parties, the buyer and the seller with no (or very little) room for a broker (i.e the gallery).
The art world has done a century of innovation in a short decade.
“Ultimately, all of these newer channels for promoting and selling art: brand collabs, influencers, improved online viewing rooms, art aggregator sites, etc, are an attempt to democratize the art collecting process, an exercise that has been traditionally incredibly siloed and opaque. If one or all of these methods helps put art research and buying power into the hands of many, as opposed to the few, the art world as a whole will benefit,” says Ann Priftis, the Founder of Clark Priftis Art. We are seeing expansion of the art world as Christie’s reports that many of the underbidders of Beeple’s $69m NFT were first time bidders and ended up purchasing “real” art from them later on.
What’s next? What happens this next decade in the Roaring 20’s? Email us and let us know what you think!