Online Artist Collectives Auction Art on ebay
Artists have been selling their art on eBay pretty much since the auction site began operation. Back in the old days, though, artists did not have an easy time of it. eBay provided limited subcategories under the category of "art," so artists had few options for listing their work. Most were forced to place their art into catchall categories that included everything from original art to copies of famous paintings to flea market finds to store-bought posters.
Buyers looking for original art by contemporary artists had an equally difficult time locating what they were looking for. Unless they knew specific artists' names, about all they could do was plow through thousands of art listings one-by-one in hopes of finding pieces they liked. They could narrow their searches by using specific key words like "oil painting" or "sculpture," but that was still pretty much of a hit-or-miss process.
eBay has since added a category of art called "Direct from the Artist" for artists who market their own work, but even searching this category was difficult for inexperienced buyers because all art was listed together. Today, the category has been broken down into a number of sub-categories including paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture, and more. There's even a category called "Folk Art and primitives" for self-taught artists. More adventurous buyers might check out the category called "other"-- you never know what you might find there; they even offer paintings by animals. In spite of all this differentiation, as of September 15, 2011, self-representing artists currently list a total of nearly 190,000 works of art, daunting for even the most intrepid of buyers to sift through.
But then artists began to organize. According to Stephanie Greene, former curator at eMOMA, an eBay artist group which no longer exists, independent online artist collectives grew out of the need for artists to achieve higher profiles and recognizeable identities on eBay. The idea behind these collectives is strength in numbers. Each collective offers multiple works of art by a group of contemporary artists like those typically seen at bricks-and-mortar art galleries or group shows. These collectives cultivate regular collectors in much the same way that dealers and galleries do.
By banding together and "branding" their art, artists make their work easier for eBay buyers to locate. Members of each collective are allowed to use a unique word in the title of every piece of art that they auction on eBay. Collectors, in turn, locate members' art by searching eBay listings using that keyword.
For example, the first such online collective, EBSQ, initially offered free membership to any artist interested in joining. Works of art auctioned on eBay by EBSQ members are allowed to contain the word "EBSQ" in their title lines so that buyers can easily locate all EBSQ for sale listings whenever they log onto eBay. EBSQ still allows any artist to join, but now charges a modest annual membership fee. Today, EBSQ has hundreds of participating artists and the website lists many thousands of works of art for sale, a number of which are also listed for sale on eBay.
Belonging to online auction collectives provides artists with a sense of community, particularly those living in out-of-the-way places. Sites offer various services including discussion boards, chat capabilities, resource pages, online shows, and featured artist pages. Members can get to know fellow artists, critique each other's work, give moral support, and provide links to their personal websites. They also share information about techniques, styles, how best to list and display art for sale, and how to ship. Most collectives have no membership exclusivity clauses so artists can join more than one collective in order to increase online exposure to their art.
For buyers, online artist collectives are a great way to shop for reasonably priced art, and for art by artists who do not show at galleries or live in major cities. In addition to bidding for collective members' art on eBay, buyers can also visit artists' personal websites to see larger selections of art, buy directly from those artists, and even commission works in some cases. Artists who belong to collectives tend to be more reliable in terms of shipping, pricing, and doing business than independent artists with no online affiliations.
Artist collective sites offer additional benefits to collectors including basic information about how members are selected for each site, temporary and permanent exhibits of members' art, tips for buying art, and answers to frequently asked questions. Several of the larger sites also offer on-site magazines, newsletters, news updates, featured artists, and email announcements. Buyers who prefer better quality art can shop primarily at sites offering juried selections of work.
Online artist collectives are pretty much in their infancy, especially with respect to selling higher priced work at online auctions, but the basic foundations have been laid. Over time, expect the overall quality and quantity of these sites to increase as artists and art dealers develop more sophisticated methods for auctioning quality art by artists who are more established in their careers.
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