Right now, it's the perfect time to leave behind the day job and pursue a more creative path.
The online art market is growing at an unprecedented rate. From sales of Old Masters to poster art, the art sector is moving online with a vengeance. According to a leading trade report for 2016, global online art sales (of all types of art) rose by 24 per cent in 2015 to $3.27bn. If growth continues at that pace, the market will be worth $9.58bn by 2020.
Today, with online sales still only accounting for a fraction of the total market, this is clearly a trend which has only just got underway. From my vantage point as founder of Juniqe, it marks the start of a brave new world for artists – one in which they can reach a global audience, without leaving their studios. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that it’s the best time in history to be a commercially-minded artist or designer. Here’s why:
1. The internet offers a global gallery for an artist’s work
Not so long ago, as an artist in search of an audience, you’d have to rely on a gallery or art dealer to reach the public and find buyers for your work. Today, the proliferation of curated art platforms, covering the full spectrum from popular art to niches within fine art, mean an artist can pretty much instantly create a shop window for the world. Today there are few, if any, territorial boundaries for buying and selling art.
2. Artists now have all the tools of e-commerce at their fingertips
From driving traffic and marketing to offering secure one click checkouts and organising shipping, online platforms assist artists with all the things they cannot realistically do, thereby freeing them up to get on with their work.
3. The internet even enables artists to test their pieces, to see what works - what their viewers click on, or not - and iterate accordingly
Artists and designers can experiment with new ideas, and explore new themes and methods. If something sells, they can double-down on it. If not, they can replace it with something that does.
4. Gallery wall space is no longer at a premium
Artists have historically only been able to put on show as much work as their gallery or studio wall-space would allow. Today, online art platforms, which do not have to worry about inventory, can offer them near limitless exposure.
5. At the same time, the best platforms act as curators, sifting for quality on the customer’s behalf
People don’t usually want to go to a destination where they have to browse through hundreds or thousands of artworks and designs, before they stumble on something they want to buy. Today, we can increasingly personalise this process, by showing them a curated selection of artworks based - Amazon-style - on browsing history and previous purchases, thereby connecting customers with artists they might like.
6. Social media is rewriting the rules of the game
Seemingly overnight social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, have become a primary means for discovering art – and a crucial marketing tool for artists. A survey on American attitudes to art, published earlier this year, revealed that more US consumers are discovering art today by using social media than by visiting museums or art galleries. Depressing as that might be to earlier generations, it’s entirely logical that younger people, who use social media for everything else in their lives, should also use it to power their curiosity for art.
Millennials, in particular, are increasingly discovering and purchasing art digitally. Almost half (44 per cent) of young millennials (18-24 year olds) and 34 per cent of older millennials (25-34) now discover art through social media channels like Pinterest and Instagram. What’s more, 57 per cent of young millennials and 52 per cent of older millennials say they would buy art online. All of which means, social media offers a wealth of opportunity to enterprising and tech-savvy artists and designers.
7. Yes, you can now give up the day job!
For every successful artist, thousands more have starved in the proverbial garret. Today, platforms like my own can pay artists a regular fee, enabling them to give up the day job and focus full-time on their work. Take the case of one of our best-selling artists, Mareike Böhmer. When she began to work with us, she’d been supporting herself via a day job. She knew that, on her own, she would never be able to generate the audience she’d need to make a living from her art - so she joined Juniqe. Today we sell so much of her work that she’s been able to quit her day job to concentrate on her passion for art.
Now, I’m certainly not arguing that online is the Holy Grail, solving at a stroke all the problems associated with being an artist today. Indeed, clearly, the internet has thrown up problems of its own making - not least around copyright infringement, where other individuals or even major brands, steal artists’ work, by tweaking it only slightly, before reselling it as their own. Similarly, while it’s clear that the online art market will only continue to grow, there will always be a place for bricks and mortar galleries, particularly where fine art is concerned.
Nevertheless, the art world is on the brink of an internet-powered new era. Never before have enterprising artists, who are willing to utilise these tools, had the means not only to make the most of their creativity, but to take control of their destiny too.