“Art is often bought in a moment of passion,” Artsy CEO Mike Steib says in this ARTnews LIVE with CEOs interview (watch the interview on YouTube or listen to a podcast in the player above.) “The first rule of e-commerce is you never add friction to a transaction when you’re in a moment of passion.”
The global pandemic has created unexpected opportunities in certain sectors of the economy. For the art world, Artsy was uniquely positioned to benefit from the closure of galleries, the curtailment of travel and the hiatus in art fairs. With fewer venues to show their artists’ work, galleries have relied more and more on services like Artsy to promote their artists and make contact with collectors.
According to Steib, galleries have tripled their revenue from online sources in the last year. Artsy has tried to play a part in that by bringing as much art together in one place, now more than 1 million items, as it can; by making it easier to match a collector’s interest with an artist’s work; and by lowering the barriers to a transaction.
One key element in enabling transactions has been to reduce the number of steps between the buyer and the seller. Five years ago, it took an average of a month between a collector expressing interest and a buyer connecting. Now Artsy offers a “buy now” option where the gallery lists the work with a public price and the buyer can make an immediate decision.
Steib says the conversion rate for galleries is four to six times higher with the “buy now” option. That, perhaps more than any other reason, is why more of the work on Artsy is listed with a public price, one of the key irritants previously hampering online art sales.
Based upon the experience of the last year in lockdown, Steib feels the art market is poised for expansion. “When you think about the 17 million high net worth individuals around the world who hold almost 50 trillion dollars of wealth,” he says. “There is enough resource on the sidelines in this industry to support an art industry that is 10 to 20 times the size it is today.”
The key to making that happen is supporting buyers with information that builds knowledge and confidence. “When you can provide someone who is accustomed to being an intelligent decision-maker with those kinds of insights,” Steib says of need for visible pricing and a critical mass of art work available on a single platform, “then that person can feel like an intelligent decision maker in the art world. And then the art world can get much, much bigger.”