6 May 2007

Online art galleries for investors

By Nalini S Malaviya

With an increase in demand for art as investment, there has been a corresponding growth in the number of online art galleries. An online gallery offers the prospective buyer the anonymity of browsing through its paintings, without the hassle of an attending salesperson. First time buyers especially find it comforting to look at artworks at their convenience in the comforts of their homes. Usually, gallery websites also offer a lot of information on art history, artists, catalogues, market trends along with the ease of searching for artworks based on price bands and genre of painting. A virtual tour combines convenience with information to make it a winning combination.

On the downside, buyers who are inclined to physically check out the artwork, find it difficult to deal with a virtual source. Transaction is another issue where buyers feel more comfortable dealing with a local person or contact. And, therefore, when it comes to sales, despite the convenience, many buyers prefer to deal with local art galleries and dealers. According to Art Consultant Umesh UV of affordindianart.com, “Communication has to be prompt, if not, the client will buy from somewhere else who offers a faster turnaround time. Usually artworks are sent after the payment is through but delay in payment from offshore sources causes further delay in sending the artwork.” Delays in receiving the artworks may also cause panic attacks in buyers. Security of transaction details is another sensitive area, which often discourages buyers from trying out newer websites. Online galleries have to depend a lot on building their reputation and gaining trust from their clients.

Despite all this, online art galleries are making their mark. According to Umesh, operating costs of a virtual gallery is low when compared to a brick and mortar gallery. Manpower, previews, cocktails, printed material, catalogues are all eliminated thereby reducing the budget. Often online galleries also showcase artists’ works without actually buying them and thereby reduce their investment costs. Sometimes, this maybe passed on to the customer. However, the most important criterion when buying from the Internet should be the credibility of that site.

(Published in Financial Times, Bangalore)