Hopes to Bring the World of Art Collecting Online

By Alexandra Wuest


Some of’s artwork for sale.

With just a few clicks of your computer mouse, $55,000 drains from your bank account. No, you haven’t been victim to some sort of phishing scam or computer virus; you have just purchased “Black Flag for Guy Debord (2012)” by American artist Skylar Fein on was launched publicly in October 2012 and describes itself as “a platform where users can discover and collect art.” Powered by The Art Genome Project, provides users with the ability to find art according to “genes,” which are mapped and categorized continuously using certain characteristics of artists and their work.

“It’s sort of the Pandora of visual art,” said Melena Ryzik in a video for the New York Times ArtsBeat blog. “The algorithm is built by real honest to God art historians. It is probably the only start up in history that has a team of a dozen art historians working, diligently typing, indexing every single piece of artwork.”

While high-end art deals once took place in clandestine negotiations behind a gallery’s closed doors, the art listed on Artsy is usually accompanied by a hefty–but not hidden–price tag.

Artsy first garnered attention by offering users the opportunity to “inquire” about artwork directly to art galleries. While a price range was provided, negotiation was not entirely cut from the process of buying art online. However, Artsy has now added the “purchase” option to certain works of art. With this addition, customers simply need to provide their billing and shipping information to acquire their work of choice.

This ultimately means that no matter whether customers choose to inquire or immediately purchase, a $1,000,000 Willem de Kooning oil painting can still be theirs without even having to leave their home.

According to “The Joy of Clicking: Examining The Needs of Online Shoppers,” a detailed infographic on the growing market of online commerce, customers ranked ease of check out as the top priority for online shopping. The same infographic shows that one third of the total Internet population buys goods online–a population that Artsy is attempting to draw to the art world.

As the internet continues to change the shape of a variety of fields–from music downloads to even food delivery services–with its promises of convenience and instant gratification, it seems Artsy is hoping to finally bring these concepts to the wary art world. With an industry known for its traditions and sometimes-even snobbery, getting customers to drop their long held art buying conventions will not be an easy task. However, the lure of scoring a major work of art from the convenience of a home office could be enough to sway some art collectors.

“Unless specifically provided in this agreement or agreed by the seller, all sales are final and Works purchased on the Site may not be returned,” Artsy states under its conditions of sale. So, hopefully that 68 x 114.5 inch Skyler Fein piece doesn’t clash with your home’s decor.


Skylar Fein, Black Flag for Guy Debord (2012). $55,000


Willem de Kooning, Reclining Figure in Marsh Landscape (1967). $750,000-$1,000,000


John Baldessari, Hands with Money, Hands with Rope, and Observer (1995). $280,000-$340,000


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