There was a time when all art for sale was the province of the educated few – a self elected body of critics and gallery owners who pretty much decided what was good, what was bad, and how much it all cost. That time, believe it or not, was very recent: indeed, some would say it’s still here. Certainly a huge proportion of original art (by original, one simply refers to anything that has been created for purpose, not a reproduction or print) is given a limited chance to reach its audience by the old school framework of gallery and auction – a framework that has held up the idea that art is snobbery for years.
The Internet, though, has had a lot to say about this recently. The World Wide Web, which was first created to be a simple file sharing tool for universities, has gained a deserved reputation as the first bastion of free enterprise and shared information in the modern world – and it hasn’t overlooked the stuffy halls of academe when searching for things to liberate. Original art for sale on the Internet is able to reach as wide an audience as a search engine will allow. And that means quality judgements made not by a privileged few but by the people who wish to buy it.
In this new marketplace, original art is sold on specialty websites, whose owners introduce the creator of the art work to its buyer. In this model, art for sale is clearly valued not by an arbitrary set of quality judgements or academic tastes, but by the approval or otherwise of a buying public. In the simplest possible terms – if people like it, they will buy it. And that means it’s good.
Whether or not a person agrees with another person’s judgement about the merit of a piece of art is immaterial. Whose place is it, after all, to say whether or not one piece of art is “good” and another one bad? The whole point about art is that it is both creative and varied. In the online model, art for sale is simply able to reflect that properly. An online art gallery has minimal restrictions on space, because most if not all of its works are held by their creators – the site acts as a middleman (or woman), passing orders on to artists who then provide their work as required.
A “real world” gallery is necessarily restrictive – it only has so much space in which to show. That restriction, while genuine and unavoidable, has led to a behaviour that many regard as elitist. If only so much art can be physically placed in a gallery, then its range of art for sale by default begins to reflect the tastes of the gallery owner. Online, there are no such restrictions – and the only taste that matters is that of the buyer.