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Watch Out, Art World: Amazon Is About to Start Selling Art

by Jillian Steinhauer on May 20, 2013

Here's some of the art currently on offer on Amazon.

Some of the items we discovered in Amazon’s “painting” category. (screen shot via Amazon)

This day may have been inevitable, but now it’s finally here. In its attempt to take over the world — or at least everything that can be bought and sold in the world, Amazon is launching an art gallery.

There aren’t many available details yet about the endeavor, but an email announcement for an informational event was forwarded to Hyperallergic. It reads:

This summer Amazon is planning to launch a Fine Art Gallery where customers will be able to purchase original artwork offered by a select group of invited galleries via Amazon.com. You are cordially invited to a special event in New York where we will introduce the Amazon Art marketplace to New York galleries …. We have received overwhelming support from the galleries that have already joined the platform and we would love the opportunity to offer your gallery’s selection in the Amazon Art store.

We reached out to Amazon for more information but a public relations representative at the company replied, “We’re not able to comment at this time but stay tuned.”

amazon-art-cart-HOMEIt’s interesting, given the company’s track record with books, that Amazon is taking the high road and trying to join forces with galleries rather than beat them at their game. Then again, unlike books, art isn’t a mass market, and the higher-ups at Amazon are probably smart enough to know that without galleries, they’d have a tougher time figuring out where to begin, not to mention gaining credibility. (No one’s clamoring about Costco’s entry into the art market, for instance.) Still, it’s hard to not wonder whether they’ll transition to working directly with artists and become gallery competition somewhere down the line.

In the meantime, what do galleries gain from this kind of partnership? Exposure to a new and larger audience, I suppose, although the price differential between many works of art and your average Amazon-bought book or blender is noteworthy. It sounds a little dreamy-eyed, but maybe, just maybe, Amazon Art will be geared at smaller galleries, helping them expand their clientele and increase sales, and maybe the giant company will start to fill the online hole left by the disappearance of 20×200. Of course the profit-sharing arrangements would have to be favorable enough to make it worth signing on, and the gallery from which we received the announcement is mid-level, not a start-up. Who knows, maybe Amazon Art will help turn the broader public into an art-loving one, or maybe it’ll squeeze the middle of the market even tighter — or maybe no one in the art world will really care at all.

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