The rapid rise of the internet triggered a shift in the art market and gave smaller players a chance to participate in the international art scene. The health crisis, however, has completely changed the game. Adaptation and flexibility have become two crucial qualities for art dealers, as has the need for an online presence; however, going digital does not necessarily mean abandoning your physical location. Sales at fairs or in galleries are necessary for visibility and notoriety and they represent an important portion of revenues in the art world. So, how do you best combine the digital and physical market space?
1. Consider the possibilities of a hybrid format
For a long time, buying and selling art was primarily done face-to-face, perhaps after negotiations done over the phone. According to The Art Market 2019, 46% of these sales took place at fairs during 2019. The remaining 54% typically took place at auction, in art galleries or private sales with specialists.
Between 2019 and 2020, art and antiques sales via e-commerce sites doubled in value, reaching a record $12.4 billion. In one year, these platforms grew from 9% to account for 25% of total art market sales! (source: The Art Market 2021, An Art Basel & UBS Report)
Galleries and artists have jumped on the digital bandwagon, whether by using online sales platforms like Artsper or by developing their own resources. Art fairs, too, have adopted fully online or hybrid editions, hoping to survive the economic crisis.
One example of a hybrid fair is the 2021 FIAC show, which takes place both at the Grand Palais Éphémère and online.
The internet is exceptional in its ability to allow us to create an online presence and notoriety at very low cost, which is particularly important for independent artists and galleries with limited means. It is also a good way to reach collectors abroad, sometimes even as far as on the other side of the world.
There are many ways to make the most of the internet as a gallery or artist, yet this does not mean you must transform your physical presence into an online-only storefront.
The best solution? Adopt a hybrid model, to make your information accessible at any time and allow your visitors to buy from a distance.
2. Put your art online
Despite having an online presence, especially on Artsper, many artists and galleries don't take the time to publish all their work for sale. A limited catalog does not accurately reflect who you are, nor the scope of what you sell.
As more and more collectors are buying art online, especially millennials, it is crucial that you are visible and attractive vis-à-vis your competitors. For these new collectors, it is easier to buy online, and they know that the payment methods on these sites are secure, and therefore prefer this type of simple, fast and safe purchase. Thus, having a real online storefront will allow you to reach new collectors unlikely to visit your physical gallery or artist studio.
Finally, as far back as 2018, the Hiscox report noted that for 90% of new collectors, "price transparency [was] a key element and criteria when purchasing art online." Additionally, according to Art Basel and UBS's The Art Market 2021 report, millennials are the highest spending collectors in 2020, with a median spend of $228,000. So, to attract millenials, bet on digital and transparency!
Transparency, security and choice: the advantages offered to collectors by Artsper
3. Organize online exhibitions
According to The Art Market 2021 report, 90% of the highest income collectors report visiting an online fair or gallery during 2020. Yet it may seem daunting to take the plunge.
However, it is entirely possible to combine physical and virtual exhibitions, without wasting time. For example, you can easily create an exhibition on Artsper, with the same works as those presented in your physical space, which will avoid you working on 2 different exhibitions. You can also display works that you did not have the space to show in your gallery or studio. In short, it's an opportunity to offer your visitors a way to easily review the works they saw in-person, and to provide potential visitors with more information before making the trip.
Online exhibitions are also a good way to get exposure in the press, media and on social networks, no matter where you live. Collectors, journalists or simply curious people have the opportunity to see your exhibition from a distance. And if a work of art catches their eye, it is easy to buy at just a click directly on Artsper.
It's also easier and less expensive to exhibit online, allowing you to host events more regularly. There are a number of tools you can use to showcase these exhibitions, such as placing them on the Artsper homepage, which is visited by 700,000 unique visitors each month. Find more tips on how to organize your exhibitions online in our article dedicated to the topic.
Exhibition PopUp Paris at Galleri GKM, featured on Artsper
4. Bring the digital into your gallery
The digital has its place in your gallery too! Why not take advantage of the fact that exhibition visitors will photograph everything?
For example, QR codes have gained in popularity during the crisis. They’re commonly used in restaurants to see menus without having to physically touch them. You can also use QR codes with a similar objective, by offering visitors the chance to scan them next to artworks. These codes can allow users to access additional information about a work, by redirecting them directly to its Artsper page for example. You can also link this code to an explanatory page or a PDF that describes the exhibition so that visitors can easily find this information later. It can also link to an interview, an audio guide, etc.
At an art fair, in a pop-up store or on a flyer, QR codes can help collectors find your gallery quickly if you link them to your website, your Artsper page, or to a business card. You can also link them to your social networks, or to a schedule of upcoming events. Be careful, all these pages must be optimized for mobile use so that visitors can have the best possible experience.
An example of a flyer created by Artsper, with a QR code
5. Add digital artworks to your catalog
The popularity gained by digital works in recent months is undeniable. Whether they are generative, interactive, or an NFT, it seems that the digital is the future of art. Virtual reality has already created a certain craze in the last few years and has made itself known to the general public. However, augmented reality is easier to set up and you only need a smartphone to use it. Sometimes confused with virtual reality, these two technologies are quite different, even if both offer an original approach to art.
Virtual reality uses the superimposition of virtual images on a real scene while augmented reality invites to interact directly with the works of art within a gallery or a workshop. This way, visitors are more involved, interact with the exhibition and will remember more easily what they have seen. It also allows you to draw their attention to certain works or aspects of the exhibition as you wish.
An example of the use of augmented reality: the Recycle Group's Nature of Non-Existence exhibition at the Gazelli Art House gallery.
Finally, encourage visitors to tag your gallery or artist’s names in their Instagram stories, for example, by clearly displaying your social media accounts. The possibilities are endless!
6. Develop your online presence
Developing your online presence is a good way to gain notoriety and to help your artists gain popularity. But it also allows you to be present to answer collectors' questions, especially via a site dedicated to your work, whether you are a gallery or an artist. Online chats, request forms, messages, emails and comments on social networks: all are ways to make yourself accessible to collectors. This way, they can save time by not having to travel, but they can also have the flexibility to contact you through the tool that suits them best.
Being active on the internet is also a way to create and keep links with other actors of the art world. Social networks, especially LinkedIn, can be particularly useful if you are looking to develop your network. In the long run, this will help improve your visibility and reputation.
The chat function on the Artsper website
Even if galleries and studios are gradually reopening and cultural activities are gradually resuming, the importance of digital technology in our daily lives is still growing, and this development does not seem to stop anytime soon. It is therefore important for the actors of the art world to take a close interest in it, without sweeping away the traditional methods. The best solution is still to choose a hybrid model, in order to benefit from the advantages of a physical and digital presence. By piquing the curiosity and interest of collectors from all walks of life and facilitating their purchase by adapting to their needs, you increase your sales in the long term. And you, what strategy do you have in place?