SKATES, a business unit of ARTNEWS, LTD, is reporting that traffic at art fairs is slowing down, as evidenced by the fact that, with just an 8.4 percent net increase in attendance in 2014, galleries “failed to grow with double digit growth.” SKATES claims this “slowdown” is due to the increasing prevalence of digital marketing; specifically, a gallery’s ability to access just as many visitors by advertising for one month on www.artnews.com, and that galleries have been noticing the conversion a collector contact to a closed sale is increasingly easier when done online.
In other industries where digital marketing has had an impact, the role of brands, loyalty and marketing persuasion have been replaced with other sources of information. Reviews from other users and experts, online product demonstrations, etc. now all play a role in supporting a buyer’s decision. The availability of this data makes it easier for customers to better gauge the absolute value of the specific product or service they’re considering. Instead of measuring individual consumers’ preferences, expectations, satisfaction, and loyalty, marketers now systematically track the readily available public information on review sites, user forums, and other social media.
Still, there would seem to be at least some level of bias in the report. ARTNEWS LTD has a very real stake in online marketing – not gallery and exhibition sales – and they derive their income from online advertising. While their claim of the demise of the gallery-based presentation and sale of art may be premature and a bit self-serving, the trend of transitioning toward online venues, should it broadly be adopted by the art world, would offer some real benefits when it comes to helping determine the precise value of a collection.
What does this mean for collectors? As the online market grows, more and more data becomes available, making it possible for collections to be more easily – and more accurately – valued. The availability of this information will aid in the management of collections and could also play a significant role in estate planning, especially where preservation or disposition of an art collection could have a material financial impact on the estate.