Talking Galleries is an international art platform which specialises in the field of the art market and art galleries. Through a series of discussions and debates the initiative brings together internationally recognised experts who share their invaluable experience in order to create strategies which can be adopted in the future. For those of you who might not have time to watch or attend all of the excellent Talking Galleries panel discussions or watch their YouTube videos, we’re pleased to announce that we’ll be summarising some of the key points in coming articles.


The annual symposium held in Barcelona at the Museum of Contemporary Art welcomed the interesting discussion titled Changes in the Online Market in January 2018. The panel was moderated by founder of The Gray Market Tim Schneider, and included Saskia Clifford-Mobely, Head of gallery partnerships at Artsy and Sophie Neuendorf, director of Artnet’s gallery network. The online art market is rapidly growing and evolving, however there are still those who doubt its success, the panel talk about the best ways to develop a strong online market as well as personalised digital strategies for galleries.

Talking Galleries
Tim Schneider, Changes in the online market, Talking Galleries Barcelona Symposium 2018

In his introduction to the discussion Tim Schneider gives some context on the current climate of the online art world, with statistics showing it is rapidly increasing. He opens with a report that David Werner ran in the Wall Street journal claiming that 30% of clients were now buying artworks solely on the basis of emailed images. The Hiscox online trade report (2017) stated that there was a total spend of $3.75B on online art sales, 8.4% market share and a 15% year-on-year growth, which all seem hugely impressive, however, Schneider goes on to explain that these figures cannot be taken as one hundred percent accurate. Looking at the sample sizes for these figures one has to assess whether the small portions of galleries, dealers and buyers questioned can be taken at face value, working with such a small number, for instance the 758 buyers in relation to the 398 million “likely to be” buyers in the world means that there is a large chance of the projections being off and consequently involving a lot of guess work. He also makes the point that in the Hiscox report the figures include assessment of both collectable trade and art trade, meaning that the final figures cannot be considered when looking at contemporary art online sales only. Therefore, the statistic that there is an estimated 3.75 billion dollars in online art raises some issues.

Schneider goes on to point out that galleries have more success selling art work online when the availability and price is listed. Schneider’s survey of top galleries (from 2017) including Gagosian, Hauser and Wirth, Pace, White Cube and Zwirner show that none of them list prices online and none offer to sell works online. Of the 600 works available to buy when the report was carried out nobody listed the prices online and there was no click to buy option. For big galleries of this nature this is mostly due to the fact that listing prices gives them less opportunity to be flexible with pricing. Even going to see works in person at these top galleries they rarely show prices. However, smaller galleries with fewer staff and less money can and should use new technologies to promote and sell artworks online.

The discussion then turns to common misconceptions surrounding online platforms such as Artnet and Artsy. Panellists Clifford-Mobely and Neuendorf concur one of the most recurrent misunderstandings is that only the younger generation use digital platforms, though it is true that these future collectors use the online spaces prolifically, digital platforms actually reach a wide and varied audience. Clifford-Mobley also addressed the problem that many people tend to use art online platforms sporadically, where you don’t see the return on the investment, or learn about the data, making the point that selling art online takes time.

Continuing on the topic of online platforms the group agreed on the importance of having a consistent approach to social media. Something achieved by conveying the same message across the various channels and keeping informed about new developments in these new technologies, with Artnet’s Sophie Neuendorf remarking “I think this is the biggest change; how social media has developed into a viable business option for galleries”. The panel also touch on the topic that each business must be clear about their business objective in order to tailor their online presence to the specific needs of the company. Social media has made the development in the past eight years to be a feasible business option for galleries and should be used at every opportunity.

A key point of the conversation is the diversity of online platforms, which are used for a broad spectrum of reasons; from building brand awareness to increasing footfall, both Neuendorf and Clifford-Mobely highlight the fact that the digital world is a specialist field and recommend that galleries hire an expert or invest in upskilling existing staff to look after their online presence.

Saskia Clifford-Mobley
Saskia Clifford-Mobley (Artsy) at Talking Galleries Barcelona Symposium 2018

Another key piece of advice given by Clifford-Mobely of Artsy was the importance of understanding the power of data in helping to make informed decisions and uploading a maximum of information to increase searchability.

The panel concludes that the online art market is an ever-evolving and powerful platform for galleries and businesses. Clifford-Mobely comments “I think it’s really important for galleries to view their online relationships, and the client cultivation that can happen there, in the same way they would regard a walk-in to the physical space and give them the same amount of attention.”

  • Schneider introduces the subject by looking at what we do know and mostly don’t know about the online art market looking at some basic figures for the growth of the market in 2017
  • Although the figures extracted from the Hiscox report, 2017 seem promising Schneider points out how they cannot be taken at face value because of the small sample size used, the figures also represent both collectable trade and art trade, meaning we cannot use them directly to assess contemporary art online sales
  • Big galleries in the art world do not tend to list works for sales prices on their websites and do not feature a ‘click to buy’ option, this is partly due to the fact that is does not allow them flexibility with pricing. Schneider advises that smaller galleries with fewer staff and less money should be embracing new online technologies, applying them to the online art market
  • In recent years social media has been recognised as a feasible and important business option
  • Social media is a crucial part of promoting your gallery and artworks. There must be a consistent approach to all social media platforms with everyone being clear on the main business objective so that their online presence can be tailored to portray this specific message
  • Panellists highlight the importance of understanding the power of data, in order to make a custom experience for the buyer and gain maximum information which can be applied
  • The online art market is certainly growing, although the figures presented in Schneider’s introduction cannot be 100 percent accurate, there is most definitely an increase and galleries should be adopting these new technologies in order to excel within the current market



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