Internet giants Amazon have launched a new platform on their website allowing users to browse and buy art from dealers’ stock.
Effectively another online dealers' portal, Amazon Art is offering more than 40,000 works of art from 150 galleries. Mainly targeted at the US market for the moment at least, the bulk of the sellers are American dealers and the prices are shown in dollars. There are, however, a small number of dealers from the UK, the Netherlands and Canada.
The company's announcement last week stated that the aim was to "demystify the world of art and allow every customer the chance to enjoy a gallery experience. From Folk Art to Impressionism to Modern Art, Amazon Art features a broad selection to suit any customer, from the experienced collector to a first-time art buyer".
Indeed, even converting a tiny fraction of the website's enormous audience into art buyers would take the whole realm of internet gallery sales to a new level. Users can use search filters in much the same way as when browsing for other Amazon products and can narrow their selections by subject, style, colour, size, price or seller.
However, critics would point out that many people may be reluctant to view and purchase art in the same way as books, CDs and household products.
Wide Price Range
Prices for works currently listed on the site start from around $30 for photographs and prints and range up to $4.85m for an oil painting by the popular American artist Norman Rockwell which is being offered by New Orleans dealers M.S. Rau Antiques.
There is no limit to the number of works that dealers can post and Amazon make a percentage on every sale made through the site.
For many dealers, especially those who are using a web portal for the first time, one of the main advantages is the greater online profile the site can provide.
Elisa Cooper, owner of New York's Elisa Contemporary Art, said: "As a small gallery, Amazon Art gives us an online platform with a breadth and depth unlike any we have had before."
This is not Amazon's first attempt to gain a chunk of the online art market. Back in 1999 they formed an alliance with Sotheby's and launched a joint website offering not just upcoming lots but also stock from around 400 registered dealers. In the end, the venture was abandoned and Sotheby's chose to instead focus on developing their own stand-alone website (www.sothebys.com).
Amazon meanwhile had much greater success in targeting the online marketplace for rare and secondhand books, culminating in their purchase of the website AbeBooks in 2008.
Galleries and dealers interested in selling on Amazon Art can register their interest here.