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Online Art Marketing is Nothing New -- Part 3

by Brian Sherwin

This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 18,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

The mainstream art market in the United States is one of the last markets, if you will, to embrace the full potential of the Internet (and it still has a LONG way to go). Contrary to recent mainstream art magazine hype -- key figures within the US art market have been slow to adapt to the concept of online art marketing / online art branding (so much so that the very idea of it seems "revolutionary" to some mainstream art dealers and art writers). In fact, one could suggest that key players within the mainstream art world have avoided the Internet in regard to online art marketing / online art branding -- and that today, in 2012, that avoidance is no longer a viable option. They are finally grasping what artists have known for over a decade -- having a strong online presence DOES matter.


I've been in this game long enough to remember the snarkfests that would ensue whenever anyone mentioned that the gallery world should embrace online art marketing / online art branding. I can recall some of the attitudes of art dealers, art curators and fellow art writers during Chelsea exhibit openings whenever the topic was brought up. If I wanted I could expose specific individuals who, just a few years ago, described both directions as "amateurish" (gotta love that little thing called Email) -- only to now write as if they have always supported those direction within the art market overall. Point blank -- I know people who thought they were above these directions... I remember the ignorance / arrogance of their words -- and their strict adherence to 'traditional models' of art marketing in general.


The proof of the ignorance / arrogance mentioned above can be found in the numbers -- the online numbers. As mentioned in Part 2, artists (specifically those without art gallery representation -- at least at the time) embraced the Internet during the early years -- they were the pioneers of online art marketing / online art branding -- and because of that... some of those artists have better traffic ranking today compared to websites representing the most influential art galleries in the world. The same can be said of hundreds of online art entrepreneurs and the online art services they provide. They broke free from the rules of the traditional art market.


Those early online art marketing / online art branding pioneers -- a mix of artists and online art entrepreneurs -- realized the importance of having a strong online presence for art -- they knew it would be the way of the future... and that future art collectors would embrace it as well. Unfortunately for the mainstream gallery world... most 'insiders' ridiculed those early pioneers. They scoffed at a concept that seems "revolutionary" to them today. I'm certain that many wish they had pursued online initiatives years ago. That 'bitter pill' has been hard to swallow for many within the mainstream art world -- the 'insiders' who can't stand the fact that a website like deviantART enjoys the popularity that it has. Those 'insiders' now accept change -- because they have no other choice if they wish to remain viable within a 'wired' society.


Why did this 'change' in perspective occur? Simple. I think the state of the economy forced the mainstream gallery world to reconsider the validity of online art marketing / online art branding. After all, brick and mortar art galleries tend to suffer when the economy is weak -- anyone who follows the art market knows that hundreds of art galleries have closed since 2008 alone. I don't want to say that the Internet could have saved specific art galleries from closing -- however, I do think the failure to adapt to online art marketing / online art branding (and strict adherence to traditional art marketing/branding in general) may have played a role in the closing of some of those art galleries -- most which had little to no online presence.


With the above in mind, that is why the hype from some mainstream art writers (and other mainstream 'insiders) concerning mainstream acceptance of online art marketing/branding has been so ridiculous in my opinion. Point blank -- if key figures within the mainstream art world accept online art marketing now... it is only because they have been forced -- by a changing culture/society -- to accept it. Remember, some of these individuals were content calling these online directions -- and the artists embracing them -- "amateurish" just a few years ago. That history -- real history -- should NOT be forgotten.


This is what I want to stress -- instead of pointing out the result of the mainstream gallery worlds error... we have 'insider' art writers (and other individuals from within the mainstream art world) attempting to use hype in order to re-write the history of online art marketing/branding -- their twisted version of the history places mainstream art dealers (specifically those located in NY) at the forefront... it is as if they don't want to acknowledge that artists spearheaded these directions over a decade ago. Many of those artists were denied by the mainstream art world back then -- and now mainstream art world 'insiders' are outright denying their place in the history of the development of these directions in general. That -- be it ignorance or arrogance -- annoys me.


I recently mentioned some of these issues on the BrushBuzz art forum. John Morris, of Digging Pitt fame, offered a few thoughts, stating, "I think a huge subtext here is that New York's traditional gallery scene is actually pretty troubled. Folks do OK selling famous artists on the secondary market, but the core base of smaller galleries that played such a big role are being pushed out.". He added, "Many collectors are conditioned to shop at art fairs- or now, online.". Fair enough -- I understand that the mainstream gallery world is having difficulty. However, I would like to see art writers, in general, 'get it right' when discussing online art marketing / online art branding. It should not be that hard to acknowledge that artists spearheaded these directions. Again, online art marketing is nothing new.


In closing, I suppose some mainstream art world 'insiders' are itching to claim what they once denied -- they see the future... and want to be part of it. The future is already here -- artists have been selling art online for over a decade... and have benefited from opportunities that would have never happened had the Internet not existed. These directions will continue to strengthen -- and artists will continue to have more control over the market for their work (so much so that in time, the role of the 'art dealer' -- as we have known it -- may be a thing of the past). That said, the origins of online art marketing should not be forgotten -- nor should it be forgotten that many within the mainstream art world scoffed at these online marketing directions... and at the artists who embraced them early on.


Take care, Stay true,


Brian Sherwin

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