Renowned art galleries have long shied away from making online retail a strong focus of their sales strategy. Afraid that e-commerce would cheapen the gallery’s image and dilute its atmosphere of exclusivity, they stayed loyal to traditional physical showrooms. Another reason that kept galleries from leaping online was their doubt that affluent customers would buy an art piece without even seeing it. Indeed, acquiring a $6-million painting is not exactly like using an app to order pizza.
Still, bluechip art is currently stepping up the digital side of its business. In 2018, the premiere auction house Sotheby’s bought Thread Genius, a startup that utilizes AI to predict what sort of items clients might want to purchase.
“The acquisition of Thread Genius […] advance[s] a number of initiatives related to the strategic capture and use of data to improve internal processes and provide a wider range of services to clients,” says Jennifer Deason, Sotheby’s Head of Strategy & Corporate Development. “We have united all of our data-related activities under one umbrella, which will accelerate innovation and provide benefits to both our internal team and our clients.”
Sotheby’s is not the only high-end art institution ready to take advantage of emerging technologies. Gagosian, a contemporary art gallery that exhibits some of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, takes online retailing very seriously. After launching its virtual viewing rooms, Gagosian saw its online sales grow by 350%.
Screenshot of Gagosian’s Frieze Los Angeles 2020 Online Viewing Room.
“Because the viewing room exists online, the artworks are available to anyone in the world, regardless of geography, we have been able to greatly expand our collector base internationally,” comments Gagosian director Alison McDonald, responsible for the gallery’s online viewing rooms.
Virtual galleries have strong advantages. A client can examine the piece without outside interference, since he or she is the only one “visiting.” Also, those who are unable to attend due to a disability, can do so online.
Another art organization to bet on digital is The New York Academy of Art. The first school to access the easy-to-use digitization platform for 3D artworks provided by Cappasity, NYAA allowed its sculptors and mixed-media artists to accurately and beautifully showcase their work like never before.
“The partnership between Cappasity and the New York Academy of Art began with a shared belief that fast and qualitative production of virtual museums, galleries, and exhibitions is possible,” says Kosta Popov, CEO of Cappasity. “We also plan to offer virtual and augmented reality tours of the Academy’s major exhibitions and galleries, allowing viewers all over the world to ‘virtually’ visit the Academy,” he adds.
You can examine a demo of the Virtual Gallery on Steam.
View the demo in the browser.
The demo is not compatible with mobile devices. Use Arrow Keys and Mouse to control the movement.
Check out one of the exhibition pieces as a 3D View.
The cases mentioned above mark a significant attitude shift towards e-commerce for the still very traditional art industry. It was proven that affluent clients are willing to shop for art online and commit to expensive purchases sight-unseen. And if even the more expensive pieces (ranging in price from $100,000 to $2 million) get sold with gratifying regularity, luxury powerhouses should take note — immersive technologies are here to stay.