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Can Digital Technology Open Up the Art World? | The New York Times

Mr. Cwilich makes the obvious but inescapable point that paintings and drawings are unique items that are a lot more expensive than mass-produced songs and books. A six-figure price tag tends to deter digital impulse buys. Prints, photographs and design objects, which generally exist in multiples, are better suited to online sales platforms, but even here, concerns about condition, authenticity and provenance can be a deterrent.

“The online space is most active in the sub-$100,000 category,” Mr. Cwilich said. “The art market is opaque and intimidating, but the internet does give more people a chance to participate.” The internet also gave trading more “velocity,” he said.

More than 2,000 galleries pay monthly subscriptions of, typically, $400 to $1,000 a month, to advertise works on Artsy, according to Mr. Cwilich, who started the company in 2012 with Carter Cleveland. Artsy generates further revenue by arranging and administering online bids at live auctions, for which it receives a 5 percent commission on successful sales. Privately owned, the company doesn’t report revenues, profits or losses.

Prices remain a major hurdle for the expansion of the digital art trade, not just because they are often so high, but because of their lack of availability. Consumers looking to buy, say, a shirt online can browse numerous fashion websites where thousands of items are clearly labeled and priced. But all too often, prices on art dealers’ websites — and in their galleries and booths at fairs — are “on application,” a process that can be both laborious and forbidding.

That remains the norm at Artsy, but some dealers are becoming more open. Mr. Cwilich said that about a third of the works on the site carried prices. Even Gagosian, an international gallery giant that is traditionally secretive about how much its art costs, is now showing prices for works selling for less than $100,000 by artists such as Damien Hirst and Ed Ruscha.

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Can Digital Technology Open Up the Art World? – The New York Times.

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