Technology has been a major disruptor in a number of industries: travel, real estate, healthcare, to name a few. The art world has historically been reluctant to embrace technology. That said, over the last 5 to 10 years, some major changes have occurred in this space. We asked Jessica Paindiris, CEO and Co-Founder of The Clarion List, for her insights.
In 2015, I set out to apply technology to solve an age-old problem in the art market: lack of transparency and access. I launched The Clarion List by taking a proven tech-backed business model - a free online, searchable, sortable directory with ratings and reviews - and applied it to an industry - the art market - that previously relied on word of mouth between the connected few.
Why Is The Art Market Slow In Adapting Technology?
Technology enables unprecedented, efficient information sharing between consumers and companies globally, so why wasn’t the art world taking advantage of this? Perhaps a big reason was because art market players (dealers, auction houses, framers, conservators, etc.) have been thriving for hundreds of years without technology, and sometimes it’s difficult to change a well-oiled machine.
I shared the view of many that the art world was simply slow to embrace technology and its many benefits, and thought that I was one of the few trying to affect change.
But, since The Clarion List’s launch in 2015, I have realized that there are, in fact, hundreds of innovative companies and start-ups helping to bring technology to the art market - either carving out unique and new niches or advancing established business models - all in order to add transparency, accessibility and efficiency to the market. Below I discuss two examples of this.
How Technology Is Helping To Authenticate Artworks
First off, technology is applied in the field of authenticating art. It is estimated that at any given time, more than 50% of the art circulating on the art market is fake, a staggering number, if true. The goal of all these authentication companies is to create a more transparent art market where collectors, dealers and other professionals can have more certainty that a work of art is authentic.
Without technology, relying on connoisseurship alone, it is difficult - if not impossible - for collectors and art experts to ascertain whether a work has been created by the artist it is claimed to be. Artist estates are not immune from these issues. The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, for example, disbanded its authentication board in 2011 after spending more than $6 million fighting a lawsuit from a collector who did not agree with the board’s assessment of his artwork.
Recognizing this problem, forensic art analysis companies are thriving. With advanced imaging and dating methods (i.e., X-Ray, UV, infrared, carbon dating, and more) they are able to provide insight into the authenticity of artworks. For example, through analyzing pigments in the paint used for a particular painting, it can be determined whether these pigments were actually used at the time the painter was active.
How Technology Facilitates Sales: Online Art Platforms
Secondly, some insist that art isn’t meant to be bought online, that it needs to be experienced first hand. But this simply ignores the reality that consumers these days buy anything and everything online, from high-end jewelry, to real estate to antique cars. Additionally, online shopping for art is an anonymous and convenient way for new collectors around the globe to participate in the art world, without having to go to gallery openings or events (in the same way that purchases at art fairs are taking over from acquisitions in galleries).
While Artsy and Artspace are well established and well recognized names, there are actually many online listings platforms that aggregate multiple galleries’ inventories in a centralized database for exploring and auction listing platforms exist to aggregate the hundreds of online auctions occurring internationally at any one time for easier exploration. Technology Allows The Art Market To Be Unique And Efficient At The Same Time
The art market is unique because artworks in and of themselves are unique. It is also a market that has heavily relied on personal relationships. That said, even business operating in the high-touch corners of the art world can benefit from the efficiencies that technology brings to businesses, whether brick-and-mortar or online. I believe that the art world will continue to embrace technology over time as awareness grows of how technology is driving a more accessible, efficient and transparent art market, benefiting art world companies and consumers alike.