Amazon Art debuted last week. The service which brings Amazon back to its original business plan of connecting buyers and sellers but taking no part in the fulfillment of the purchase, has provoked debate: does Amazon really expect to sell seven-figure paintings online?
Yes, says The Business Insider which claims Jeff Bezos as one of its investors:
Bill Rau of M. S. Rau Antiques — the vendor selling the $4.85 million Rockwell — is confident that Amazon can move expensive art. “We have sold things of great value in the seven figure range online before. I’m always surprised when it happens, but it does happen,” he said.
No, says The Independent:
If the million-dollar paintings are a stunt to make customers aware of the section, they seem to have worked, and in any case Amazon risks nothing by listing them. The site does not own or store any of the works itself, but instead collaborates with around 150 galleries who give up a slice of the commission on each sale – between five and 20 per cent,according to some reports – in return for Amazon bringing their art to a larger, international audience.
Isobel Beauchamp, co-founder of the UK site DegreeArt.com, which is collaborating with Amazon, agreed that most sales would be made in the mid-market. “The average basket for us online is about £800,” she says. “There used to be a ceiling of about £500 to £800 that people would transact online. It’s increasing all the time though, and people tend to spend a bit more each time they come back to the site.” This tallies with Amazon Art’s listings, where most works are actually priced between $1,000 and $2,500.
Though, to be fair, The Business Insider comes to this same conclusion themselves:
“If I go to a big box retailer, they’re selling mass quality prints for $100, stuff everyone has in their dorm rooms,” said Allen Terrell, the Art Director of Downtown Art Center (DAC) Gallery. “Now I can go online and find original art or limited edition art for the same price. Who wouldn’t want to have that hanging in their house rather than a Monet print that everybody has across the country?”
The Independent, however, identifies a bigger threat but following the internet retailer back to its roots in the book business:
What sets Amazon apart, though, is just how huge it is. Chris Conway, managing director at LocalBookshops.co.uk said the gallerists were dangerously naive if they thought Amazon could not change the art market in a similar way to how it reshaped the publishing landscape. If the mid-market is the real target, and customers are buying art as decoration rather than investment or making a prestige purchase, then Amazon’s convenience and ubiquity gives it a serious advantage.
What Amazon Art means for the market – and the medium (The Independent)