A recent panel discussion at the Auckland Art Gallery apparently prompted just one question from the audience. The panel of three art dealers was asked something along the lines of whether people were prepared to buy online without seeing the work. Dealer Michael Lett said yes, they were, but added that such sales are usually based on the buyer having a pre-existing knowledge of the artist. Dealer Gary Langsford even put some numbers around it. According to him local online art shopping cuts off at around $20,000 an item and internationally it hovers around $100,000.
Of course as Lett suggested sight-unseen purchasing has always been part of the art market. For example auction phone bids often rely on catalogue photographs and discussions with the auction house. Still, when you add developments online with the suggestion that at least one prominent NZ gallery is thinking of closing shop, you have to wonder just how long bricks and mortar will remain the primary channel for art purchases. And if the worst were to happen, you also have to wonder what the hell we’ll all do with our Saturday mornings.
CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR COMMENTS: "Gary Langsford is not paying attention, or misinformed. In the New Zealand alone Ocula Black has sold many artworks online, entirely through the online auction system, one being for well over $200,000, a number of others for over $20,000. And international online sales have long left $100,000.