Art fairs under threat from online platforms

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Art fairs need to act urgently to curb the erosion of their status as the key marketing platform for galleries, according to the Q2 2015 edition of the Skate’s Art Fairs Report. It says that declining art fair attendance this year is not the result of art fair fatigue; it is due to a shift towards researching and buying art online.

The report, which covers the set of statistics related to art fairs conducted around the world this year to date, states that the biggest art fairs event of the quarter took place outside of the art fairs space. In particular it points to online art platform Artsy as a threat to art fairs.

“Artsy closed on $25 Series C financing and now poses a real and present danger to the traditional world of offline art fairs, as its digital art fair previews now generate more online traffic than the actual events themselves,” states the report.

A latecomer compared to listing incumbents like artnet.com AG and Live Auctioneers, Artsy is now the third largest auctions and galleries listing platform in terms of digital audience, after artnet and 1st Dibs and ahead of Invaluable, Live Auctioneers and others.

Widely seen as the most lavishly funded digital art business, Skate’s says it is transforming how art is marketed and discovered in the modern world. Skate’s expects the large art fairs to counter soon, in order to preserve their share of the market.

“The big global art fair operators like MCH-owned Art Basel and Reed Exhibitions-owned FIAC/Paris Photo should launch their own offerings, and they probably will,” says the report.

“The failure to do so this year will shift the galleries’ marketing budgets to independent digital platforms like Artsy, and will make it increasingly difficult for art fairs to compete with the already bigger target audiences on listing platforms — in the long run negatively affecting the size of galleries’ applications and space rental rates. Not yet a disaster, but a loud wake up call.”

Picture credit: James Cridland/Creative Commons license