Amazon launched it's new Fine Art and Collectibles section earlier this week, and it's getting a lot of buzz in the art world.
Most of the media (including us) has focused on the more expensive pieces of art on Amazon — like the $4.85 million Norman Rockwell painting — and the negative and hilarious comments that quickly piled up.
But with an estimated 150 art dealers and 4,500 artists, these expensive works of art are the minority. Out of some 40,000 items — including thousands of original works — 18,000 are under $1,000 and 29,000 are under $5,000. There's even a $10 work of art for sale.
"If I go to a big box retailer, they're selling mass quality prints for $100, stuff everyone has in their dorm rooms," said Allen Terrell, the Art Director of Downtown Art Center (DAC) Gallery . "Now I can go online and find original art or limited edition art for the same price. Who wouldn't want to have that hanging in their house rather than a Monet print that everybody has across the country?"
These original and affordable works of art from smaller galleries are the real meat of the Amazon Art section. Galleries are excited because the online retailer will help them broaden their reach and tap into a new clientele. And its good for Amazon because the company gets a 5-20% commission — which is typical for all Amazon vendors, according to the New York Times — on works that could sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
The real upside of shopping on Amazon for art though is how user friendly it is: You can search by color, size, price, and even subject. Other art vendor websites like Artsy and Artnet on the other hand may have sleek website designs, but they are not as inherently easy to navigate or familiar to prospective buyers.
Buyers are also moving away from the idea that art needs to be experienced in person before it's purchased. "Young collectors are a lot more comfortable buying things online," Matthew Glasser, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Exceptional Children's Foundation at DAC Gallery, told us. "So when they go through new artwork, they're willing to purchase the work based on the image alone."
Plus, there are plenty of people who are uncomfortable with the typical brick and mortar gallery experience who would actually prefer to buy art online. There's less judgement about what you like, less pressure in choosing what to buy, and customers can rely on Amazon's return and shipping policies, so there's extra reliability.
Even the higher-end galleries on Amazon's new section are hopeful that their more expensive pieces will find buyers. Bill Rau of M. S. Rau Antiques — the vendor selling the $4.85 million Rockwell — is confident that Amazon can move expensive art. "We have sold things of great value in the seven figure range online before. I'm always surprised when it happens, but it does happen," he said.
And though time will tell just how much of a success Amazon's Fine Art and Collectibles section will be, works of art are already selling: "We sold a piece of art to Germany this morning and another one to California," Stephen Tanenbaum, Co-Founder of UGallery, told us. "As word starts to get out, I think people are giving it a shot."
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