Looking Bright: The Rise Of The Online Gallery

Amazon, which already sells urinals, basketballs, books and countless other readymades, has recently announced plans to venture further into the art market with their Amazon Fine Art Gallery—an online gallery where costumers could “purchase original artwork offered by a select group of invited galleries.” If the retail giant’s new venture isn’t a sign that the online art market is experiencing a boom, then I don’t know what is. There’s no denying it: the Internet has virtually changed the way we socialize, travel, shop and even experience art.

Las week we introduced you to the faces behind Oricura, making the case for the seemingly inevitable rise of online galleries. Today, to sustain that claim, we meet up with Euphemia v. Kaler, art historian and public relations representative of Curart, an online art gallery with a particular eye for groundbreaking artwork. We sit down to chat with Kaler at the Berlin studio of Irma Markulin, one of the artists represented by Curart, for a conversation on the shifting attitudes towards art, the importance of marketability and the bright future of online art markets.

A Window Of Opportunity

It’s becoming less and less of a necessity to experience the physicality of an object before agreeing to possess it—we know that much. We can trust that a certain shoe size will fit so, with a click of a button, we buy it. But there’s a problem when it comes to art: what are the guarantees that one would be content with an artwork before actually possessing it? “It is not a problem, only an attitude,” Kaler assures me. She refers to constant shifting attitudes towards virtual interactions and transactions; the generation gap between digital natives and analog old-timers. Quickly shutting off my insecurities of buying art online, she tells me that Curart offers a two-week window in which a buyer may return the artwork if he or she is unsatisfied with it. This is comforting; you never know when a great work of art will not look that great when displayed in your ugly room.

Euphemia v. Kaler with artwork by Irma Markulin. Photo: C. Phillips

To further ensure that any potential collector is confident about the quality and originality of any artwork in question, Curart’s website provides some neat features. Along with the necessary photos of the artwork, their artists also take the spotlight: biographies, CVs, interviews, and—my favorite—photos of the artists’ studios are also a highlight. It is the latter feature that I think brings artistic integrity to the forefront; it is in the intimacy of an artist’s studio, whether strategically organized or catastrophically chaotic, that one could see the seriousness of their endeavors and the passions of their quest.

A Symbiotic Relationship

Our conversation in Markulin’s studio then turns to the relationship that Curart fosters with its artists. “The artwork must be groundbreaking,” Kaler states as tbeing one of the main prerequisites for forming part of their roster. One does not have to be a certain age-rage or have special accolades, but the work must be compelling. And understandably so: for a gallery—especially an online one— to gain a reputation it must first present work of caliber.

Artist Irma Markulin sharing her perspective as an artist represented by an online gallery. Photo: C. Phillips

Fortunately, we counted with the presence of Markulin, an artist represented by Curart, to gather her opinions on online galleries. “The success of an artist,” she shares, “Usually depends on sixty percent public appearance and forty percent content of the work.” She’s referring to the marketability necessary for a successful artistic career, something that certainly requires a great deal of time—a luxury that any working artist often lacks. This is where the supportive hand of the online gallery comes in, showcasing its artists worldwide so that the artist may focus a greater percentage of time on their works content.

Fostering the bond between gallery and artist is important for Curart's business model. Photo: C. Phillips

Indeed, what the online gallery provides is immediacy. Consequently, traveling costs to a gallery are eliminated when the stock of available artwork is centralized in a virtual storage room. “Today, eighty-nine percent of art sales are done trough JPEG transactions,” Kaler tells me. This is an outstanding figure, but not a surprising one—ask yourself where the majority of art is that you encounter on a daily basis and chances are the answer is on a virtual platform, away from the actual physical work.

Nothing New, Just Reconfigured

Mid-conversation, Euphemia reminds me that the current operations of the online art gallery are really nothing new or different from any past system of communication between artists, galleries and potential collectors. She tells me that long before the Internet, ektachromes (earlier versions of Polaroid photos) were used to share images of artists’ works when distance or time was an issue. And even now with the Internet, artists have replaced the business card for the webpage when presenting themselves and their work. Online marketing appears more appetizing and efficient, of course, because of its ability to reach a wider audience.

Looking at a bright future: Euphemia v. Kaler & Irma Markulin. Photo: C. Phillips

“Joseph Beuys stated that everyone can be an artist—today, I say that everyone can be a collector!” Kaler playfully states. Yet this is one of Curart's most serious endeavors: to open up the general public’s interest in collecting art. Too many clichés are flown around the art world critiquing its ruthless capitalist interests—enough to have turn anyone away in disgust. Yet with the rise of online galleries, it is possible that these perceptions will soon experience a shift. If, as Curart hopes to engender, people realize that collecting art is at the grasp of their fingertips, then the future for the art market looks bright. And if it doesn’t just yet, try adjusting your monitor’s brightness settings.

Article by Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra