Can we get free Super Saver shipping on this, or what?
Though online start-ups like Exhibition A, which sells limited edition prints by highly regarded emerging artists and their blue chip predecessors, have started conditioning the art-seeking public to purchasing work from the Web, the practice still isn’t the norm. Or, worse, it’s the provenance of puppy prints, sappy retouched black-and-white portraits of faux Victorian children, and the like.
Today, however, Amazon launched a fine art channel, with contributions from 150 galleries and a price range reaching into the single digit millions. (Preserving its everyman identity, there’s also an under-$200 section.) In typical plainspoken Amazon fashion, a left-hand sidebar lists its “featured artists:” Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Marc Chagall, and Salvador Dali. Oh, those guys! Qatari collectors must be thrilled that such work is now available at both Sotheby’s and alongside discount beauty products and items more typical of Home Depot and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
The whole thing would be surprising, except that Italian multi-brand fashion retailer Yoox not all that long ago launched more or less the same thing. So does that mean the world’s top collectors are ready to buy art online?
We wonder. 20X200, a site similar to Exhibition A, ran for five years until early 2013, and was well known for offering limited edition prints by desirable artists. And then the site closed down (supposedly and hopefully only temporarily). Though the problems leading to 20X200 being taken offline are obtuse, and represent only one example of an online art setback, the site’s troubles could signal that fine art’s Web presence still needs a safety net right now. Exactly what it might need, for instance, is to be carried by a mainstream name that already has multiple other profitable areas. If Amazon and Yoox are successful, this would be proven true.
While we wait and see (and eagerly await the first multi-million dollar Amazon sale of, say, Norman Rockwell), we’re really tickled that you can now stick a Damien Hirst in the same shopping cart as extra-long twin sheets, an iron, hair conditioner…you get the idea.