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Amazon's Other Big News
By: Maryann Fabian
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So much for the dog days of summer. First we hear that Amazon’s CEO bought the Washington Post. Then, within 24 hours of that news, Amazon launches a fine art marketplace online. So, along with your toilet paper and fridge filters, why not just add an Andy Warhol to your cart for a cool million? (Do Prime members get free shipping? What will the comment section look like? Wonder how many stars his Marilyn will get.)

If you go to Amazon.com/art, you can view more than 40,000 works of fine art from 150 different galleries and dealers, from $200 prints to originals from Chagall, Monet, Rockwell, Warhol, and Dali. Amazon says it hopes it can “demystify the world of art” by giving its users the ability to browse through collections from the U.S., U.K., and more with just a swipe or click.

What’s in it for high-end galleries like Holden Luntz and Paddle8? “We…realize the models for dealing in contemporary arts have evolved in this digital age and ecommerce is a channel to reach more clientele,” said Holden Luntz, founder of his self-named gallery in Miami.

Not to mention the cheaper commission.

This is not virgin territory. Did you know that there are more than 300 online art venues? Art collectors were furious in January when the art site 20x200 suddenly went offline. The site stranded customers in mid-order and posted a “stay tuned” message on its home page that’s still up. CEO Jen Bekman, who also owns a gallery on the Lower East Side, abandoned ship after receiving almost $3 million in venture capital and financing for 20x200. Maybe Amazon can offer the secure backing that the sometimes-flaky art world needs.

What can you do on Amazon that you can’t do in a gallery? Filter by price, color, artist, and size. Not have to deal with art snobs. Or the intimidation of a salesperson sizing you up. But would you buy an original work of art online without seeing it in person? While it's very cool to view works of art from your couch, could you buy it without first experiencing it firsthand? Do you trust your computer screen’s resolution that much to have a true art experience?

Osman Khan, managing director of Paddle8 was quoted in March as saying he hoped online art platforms would help “develop a more established collector base, as collectors understand the validity of your brand.” A kind of reverse showrooming, if you will, where online becomes an information channel that leads to an in-person buying experience at the gallery.

German writer Johann Wolfgang van Goethe said, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” 

Now, thanks to Amazon, you can do all of the above. Here’s to seeing the beautiful every day.

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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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