October 10, 2007; Page D1
As art lovers descend on London this week for the opening of a glitzy art fair called Frieze, art sales have never been hotter at galleries and auction houses. But the online marketplace for art is still as mottled as a Monet water scene, with vast amounts of art available at various Web sites but a scarcity of big-ticket buyers.
Does art actually sell online? It's long been hard to tell. Now, one big online gallery, Saatchi Online, is offering its first financial clues to the answer -- and a clearer picture of the much-hyped Internet art marketplace and its challenges.
More than a dozen Internet sites, from eBay to Ugallery.com, offer tens of thousands of new artworks. But top collectors like Agnes Gund in New York and curators like Weston Naef of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles largely ignore what's offered on online art sites, preferring to buy directly from auction houses or dealers. Even Christie's International initially struggled last year to persuade collectors to click and bid using its new online venture. (Christie's says its online bidders bought $32.3 million of art over the past year.)
Saatchi Online made a splashy entrance into this market over a year ago, when it invited artists to upload and sell their creations on his site, with the site taking no commission fees. With Charles Saatchi, a high-profile British ad executive and art collector, at the helm, the site has been seen by some in the art world as a litmus test for Internet sales.
|The painting 'Tied,' by Katelyn Alain, was sold over Saatchi Online.|