More and more people are getting comfortable about buying art online. In the early days of the Internet, potential art buyers were hesitant, fearing fraud and worrying about transaction safety. Moreover, images and descriptions were often too wanting in quality to serve as a reliable fundament for judgement. The market has matured and a more professional corps of sellers is addressing a public growing increasingly comfortable. Collectors have discovered the advantages of the Internet market place and the future seems bright for online transactions. As for pricing, the virtual market has natural limits that make most people unwilling to buy at the price levels they would consider in traditional venues. Today, the online limit seems to correspond to the7500 dollar/5000 Euro ceiling that a number of international art fairs have been maintaining to prone the concept of 'affordable art'. One may safely predict that online transactions of art will continue to gain market share and especially in this price segment. It becomes important to familiarise oneself with the possible drawbacks of this promising trade.
Art is sold on the Internet through a large variety of sites of varying quality. At the one end of the spectrum we have the art professionals, with dedicated and dynamic sites and well-visited portals featuring select galleries and listings; at the other end one finds artists' personal sites,
often desperately short of visitors. In between these extremes there are generalist venues defending their share of the marketplace, such as eBay and arts and antiques shopping malls.
It is important to start by passing judgement on the reliability of the venue that you are dealing with.
- Make sure that it displays a physical address and that there is real-person telephone support.
- Deal only with sites that are physically established in countries with stable legal systems (in case you need to file a complaint).
- Collect as much feedback on the site as you can.
- Look at the art offered with a critical eye
The art on offer
Today no one will find an excuse for offering second rate photography. You must not only have access to excellent images but also be able to see the proposed work in all its aspects. Close-ups without context are meaningless.
Compare the images shown with the detailed description. The latter should contain both provenance and technical detail and in general answer all your questions. Take the size of the work into account, misrepresentation of size is one of the most common errors when buying art on-line (most of the works will be small to medium-sized due to shipping limitations).
Due diligence demands that you inquire into how long the seller has been in business. What is the feedback from earlier buyers? Would you trust this person?
Assure that there is clarity about the shipping and its price. Always demand expedited, insured and tracked shipping. Check the buyer's return policy. Consider not buying if there is no return policy worth the name. Assure that you are paying with means that are sufficiently traceable. Make certain that you have all costs under control and, in case you are buying internationally,
that you have taken the impact of an eventual exchange rate into account.
As for the sales price, you can easily get lots of comparative information on the Internet. But remember, in the end it is what you feel about the work that will decide on the eventual purchase. The art market is a sentimental market, and a manipulated one.
Arrival of you art
Check you parcel carefully upon arrival before acquitting the carrier. Any visible damage to the packaging should automatically make you request the deliverer's presence while you are opening the parcel. Damage to the content should be described in an official and mutual statement, conjointly signed with the person delivering. Unpack carefully; avoid damaging the original packaging in case a return becomes necessary. Make sure that the work meets
your expectations. Email the seller to acknowledge reception, thank and acquit him; or in the worst case, tell him that you are not satisfied, invoking his return policy.
If there is a problem
You should know that in 'civilized' countries, your Internet purchase is placed on the same level as buying in any physical venue and that you can go to court with your complaints if they are of a serious nature. This is why you should deal only with sellers that give out their particulars and are established in a country with a developed legal system.
Heeding this simple advice will considerably enhance your on-line art buying experience.
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