How are innovation and technology going to affect the art market?

By Portafolia Studio,

Portafolia Studio leading digital amrketing studio and agency for the art market

The TEFAF art market report 2017 was presented last Thursday at Maastricht. Two takeaways in the report are especially relevant to those of us working in innovation and technology in the art market. 

The first is that nearly 70% of dealers and gallerists expect their transactions to increase through digital channels, namely third-party platforms and their own websites. The second is that for 72% of dealers and gallerists acquiring new clients is a top concern. Among all the options given to respondents, these were the highest readings in both cases.

The first is that nearly 70% of dealers and gallerists expect their transactions to increase through digital channels, namely third-party platforms and their own websites. The second is that for 72% of dealers and gallerists acquiring new clients is a top concern. Among all the options given to respondents, these were the highest readings in both cases.

Our experience regarding the first point is that sales through gallery websites and email marketing have dramatically decreased for most dealers and gallerists over the past decade. Why? We see two main reasons; the art world is not known for responding rapidly to trends in digital marketing, UX design and technology in general. Most galleries set up their websites a decade ago to prove their existence in the offline world and have done little work on them since. Websites serve more complex purposes today. They are the actual entities operating in the online world.

The second reason is the art world’s persisting idiosyncratic resistance to ideas related to marketing and sales that are common to any other sector. This limitation prevents them from catching up to current trends; hence their websites look outdated and unengaging. To fulfil the expectation of increasing their transactions online, dealers should work harder on building websites, social media strategies and any other digital channel initiatives that are more engaging, dynamic and relevant.

The second takeaway – 72% of dealers and gallerists is to acquire new clients –, seems to imply that their gallery spaces (this we know) and their participations at art fairs are no longer giving them access to new audiences. Should they shift their strategies and look elsewhere? Of course not. For any business, it is cheaper to maintain an existing client than to get a new one. But to engage with newer audiences and, presumably, younger prospects, dealers must go digital.

Our challenge, however, is that we are late adopters as an industry. Eight years ago, many galleries would resist creating a Facebook page because they thought it would risk their client base. Now they have created their pages and are late in realising what it means to operate within the sharing economy. Some trends are just unstoppable.

According to the TEFAF report, the private art sector seems to have high expectations of digital channels and faces great challenges in acquiring new clients. What does their future look like? Consider that today’s 25-year-old university graduate might be a successful and very well connected – I mean digitally –business man or woman in 20 years. It is evident that they will prefer digital channels to grow and develop their interests. Hence there is a significant opportunity, even a demand, for the art market to become more technology savvy and work now for the future; that is unless we want to continue playing catch-up.

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