Online art today is as normal as a Flipkart or an Amazon. At the turn of the century, when the dot com revolution kicked into fifth gear, retail went online, almost immediately. Lower overheads, simpler and more streamlined and secure processes- whats not to love about e-retail? Off course, some took their time. But over time, everyone had their online presence. Everyone, that is except art. Online art is a rather recent phenomenon.
I distinctly remember a train journey where I had met a Rajasthani businessman who first introduced me to the possibility of premium art being sold online. Now this was years ago, a time when Sachin and Binny Bansal hadn’t even joined Amazon, from where their e-commerce dreams would take shape. Forget about online art, online anything wasn’t much in vogue. And yet, here was a man who was reeling in the moolah, and doing so well, through a website on which he sold traditional Rajasthani art forms. His clientele was almost exclusively from the US. He hardly had Indian clients. Funnily enough, he had never been to the US, or for that matter anywhere outside India. It was one of the earliest uses of the internet for a retail business that I had personally come across. It also showed me something important, online art does sell, and there is an opportunity to be explored there.
Today the scene is much different. A Google search for online art will throw up at least fifty websites, all selling different forms of art. One of the biggest benefits of online art sales is that the products have diversified a lot. So today you can have art literally on anything- cups, mugs, T shirts, coasters, bags, wallets- you name it and they have made it. This is apart from the standard fare available at any art gallery like paintings and sculptures and miniatures. What online art sales have done is that they have brought art into the everyday lives of individuals, allowed consumers to indulge in art as fashion and look at art as a fashion quotient.
Another significant benefit of online art galleries is that it has given space to hitherto struggling artists to grow and make art as a viable career option. And while online art galleries have made the life of the struggling artist much easier, it has also made art more affordable. Whereas art in itself is an elite pursuit and has been traditionally indulged in by the wealthy, online art galleries, with their steady supply of good art, are able to keep prices down significantly. Through miniatures and gift items, they also help create a greater visibility, acceptability and hence a market for art among the middle class. Today, people belonging to an aspirational class and generation crave for art to decorate their homes and offices. The hunger to class up their lives is satisfied by these online art galleries.