John Schnobrich, unsplash, stock

Step by Step: Do You Want to Buy Art Online? How to Do It and What to Look for?

Piotr Krzymowski, art installation, Romanian Culture Institute, London 2019, archive Contemporary Lynx

Today, thanks to the benefits of the Internet, it doesn’t take much to become an art collector – the only thing we need is our computer or smartphone and a little patience. Although galleries and auction houses have been conquering the Internet for just a few years, statistics show that more and more people decide to buy artworks online and the last year saw the market’s value grow to a whopping $4,5 bln. The appeal of online shopping lies in its convenience. The range of available objects is practically limitless and prices are usually more attractive than in traditional galleries.

The greatest Internet’s advantage and disadvantage at the same time is its anonymity which not only protects the buyer but can also turn against him. Everyone can become an online seller and the art world has always been known to attract all kinds of scammers and frauds. Fortunately, exercising even basic caution can save us from an unpleasant experience and loss of money. When buying art online, it is important to read the offer carefully and make sure that it contains all the necessary information – a detailed description of the object and the artist.

We should also take a closer look at the dealer – whenever it’s possible, it’s best to choose the services of renowned and reputable galleries and auction houses. When dealing with a trustworthy seller, accessing the company’s details and checking them in online databases shouldn’t be difficult. Another great habit is contacting the dealer by phone – reliable galleries will be happy to answer all our questions and even a five-minute phone call can reassure us of our decision and give us much-needed peace of mind. Lastly, before making the final decision, it is crucial to double-check the terms and conditions and make sure that we’re aware of any potential additional costs and fees like the seller’s commission.

Undoubtedly, a big downside of online shopping is that we can’t get acquainted with the artwork in person. The most obvious solution to this problem is visiting the gallery after spotting the object online. However, even if it’s not possible, we need to remember that legally there is no difference between works of art and other objects – we have the right to return goods bought online within 14 days of receiving them, without specifying the reason.

Every amateur collector will soon discover that the Internet offers a huge range of objects and it’s easy to get swamped with the number of offers. Art is a long term investment and it’s supposed to please the eye for years – we should avoid hasty decisions and impulsive purchases. Having the Internet at our disposal, we are able to conduct basic research that will not only allow us to familiarize ourselves with the object and its author but also determine whether it’s authentic or not. Although for some it may seem trivial, Google is still a basic tool used by art professionals. Depending on the level of our determination, we are able to trace the work’s history or even access its creator’s catalogue raisonné and ensure that the object is authentic.

Every year, the number of websites offering artworks for sale increases and although the leader position on the international market is still held by old players like Sotheby’s or Christie’s, portals specialising in online transactions are becoming their strong competition. One of the biggest ones is Live Auctioneers, international portal organising online auctions offering a variety of works in different price ranges. Art galleries also seem to thrive in the virtual world, like the most renowned of the kind, Saatchi Art, which brings together artists from around the world.

In Poland, we can find an interesting alternative for foreign moguls – Strefa Kolekcjonera Allegro (Allegro’s Collectioner’s Zone), which emerged on the market in September 2018, offering online art auctions. It stands out in a crowd thanks to its process of selection – all the offered objects come from established Polish galleries and auction houses, making collecting easier and safer for first-timers.

The article is part of “Step by Step” series created in collaboration with Collector’s Zone / Allegro.

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About The Author


Art historian and art writer based in London. She is currently studying for an MA in art market and appraisal at Kingston University.

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