Art on the internet

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In my post Getting what you bargained for I talked about the rise of the second tier dealers who offer low prices instead of what the neighborhood retailer provided and how that's changed the face of high end retailing forever. That trend isn't limited only to high-end audio, but to the art world as well. On a recent trip to Santa Fe New Mexico Terri insisted on dragging me through the local art galleries of Canyon Road of which there are many. I like art but hopping from gallery to gallery smells a lot like shopping, something that has never appealed to me. As I travelled between stores I started to see similarities between these galleries and high-end audio stores. Both have hand selected high-end objects on display and someone ready to tell you everything you wanted to know about each piece. Prices ranged from hundreds of dollars to many thousands. Definitely a similarity there. Retail real estate in Santa Fe isn't cheap so I couldn't help but wonder how these galleries supported themselves with so little traffic walking through the door. The few customers seemed like proverbial tire kickers like us, treating the galleries more like free museums than stores. I turned to Terri and said "You could probably get 80% of this shopping experience with a good website". She replied "I would never buy art over the internet. You have to look and discuss and compare in person. You need salespeople who are knowledgable and can guide you through the process. That's an absurd idea." The next shop we walked into had the proprietor sitting at his desk in a corner surfing the web. He waved and asked if we needed any help. I just had to know. "Do you guys sell anything on the internet?" "Absolutely. In fact, 90% of our sales are now on the internet as are most everyone's on this street." Terri turned pale. "Why does everyone have these expensive galleries then?" I asked. "Credibility. People will only buy expensive art from a legitimate high-end gallery, not from some internet retailer. They don't trust the internet retailers but they do trust us." My how things have changed.
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Paul McGowan

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