Online sales democratise art market

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Like the London housing bubble, you wonder how long the current boom in the art market can last, but with so many new collectors entering the arena from all corners of the world the supply has a long way to go before outstripping demand.  That is the view of Carl Freedman, director of Counter Editions, an online business that commissions and produces prints and multiples by leading contemporary artists.

Freedman believes that buying art online genuinely makes the ownership of art more democratic. “Anyone, anywhere in the world, with access to the computer can buy a John Baldesarri or a Tracey Emin from us,” he says. “If there is a problematic area of buying art online it is probably with paintings which are often quite difficult to fully understand from a digital image alone.”

Counter Editions has been selling art online since the early days of e-commerce back in 2000.

“This was a time when most people still had dial up connections,” says Freedman. “Since then there has been a revolution in the way the internet is used for online shopping to the point where it is now a part of everyday life.

“Even at the higher, less publicly visible end of the art market, collectors are buying artworks from jpegs which is essentially the same kind of digital, rather than physical, engagement.”

Freedman says that painting remains the dominant art form for investment.

“It’s hard to imagine the Qatari royal family – purchasers of Cézanne’s The Card Players, the world’s most expensive artwork at £160m  –  snapping up Martin Creed’s Work No. 227: The lights going on and off. Who knows though, in the future maybe conceptual art will rule the day,” he says.

While almost all areas of modern and contemporary art are being looked at for investment at present, he identifies mid-century British Modernism as undervalued, as are overlooked late-career artists.  The dominant current trend is for young rising star abstract painters.

Lindsay II by Richard Phillips, courtesy of Richard Phillips and Counter Editions
Lindsay II by Richard Phillips, courtesy of Richard Phillips and Counter Editions