Amazon is moving up the luxury goods ladder as it reportedly prepares to launch an online gallery of fine art with upwards of 1,000 pieces, the Wall Street Journal reports. Similar to Amazon Wine, which launched last fall, the art platform will take a commission ranging from five to 20 percent off the total sale price.
Amazon, along with Yahoo and eBay, waded into the online art business during the Internet boom, but backed off of a partnership with Sotheby’s in 2000 after the initiative failed to gain traction.
Thus far, its second attempt isn’t necessarily being welcomed with open arms either. The e-commerce giant has approached scores of small dealers including Eleven Rivington, On Stellar Rays, Vogt Gallery and Zach Feuer, and many have not yet jumped on board. “I didn’t really have to think much about it and said it wasn’t for me,” Augusto Arbizo, founder of Eleven Rivington told the Art Newspaper. “I have said no to most e-commerce opportunities for the simple reason that I just do not have that much inventory. And we work with very few artists who do editions or prints.”[more]
However, the appeal of a mass online marketplace holds promise for those that have chosen to invest in the platform, like Nick Lawrence, owner of Freight + Volume gallery in New York. “I figured this would be a great way to reach a massive crowd,” Lawrence told the Wall Street Journal. “There are a lot of people who aren’t necessarily going to be able to visit New York to buy art and maybe they can find something instead on Amazon.”
While the platform may have success selling editions and prints, many are skeptical of its ability to sell one-of-a-kind pieces. “It’ll always be difficult to sell art on the Internet,” Richard Feigen, owner of Richard L. Feigen and Co. gallery in New York told the Journal. “Serious collectors want to see the art before they buy it—you don’t have to see a book to buy it over the Internet.”
As for the platform’s sales system, much remains unclear. According to dealers associated with the service, the platform is free to galleries until 2015, after which there will be a $100 charge to list artwork. Details of shipping will fall to the galleries (the art section is not part of Amazon’s Prime delivery program) with the probability of associated costs reaching hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Costco launched a similar art platform last year and offers prints by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall as well as original art, with the most expensive work on their site a lithograph by Jean-Michel Basquiat priced at $5,999. Amazon will also directly compete with sites like Artsy and Artnet, not to mention the large majority of traditionalists in the space that favor in-person evaluations and sales. James Hedges, president of art-oriented investment firm Montage Finance told the Art Newspaper that, “Prints, multiples and editions may be the low end of the market but there is still a low end of the low end.”