Foundmyself is a free, online art community that offers selling tools to artists of all skill levels. Unlike other art sites, it runs entirely on the honor system.
The honor system means you can sell your original art without paying the commissions or subscription fees that are common on other sites. Buyers know that 100 percent of their purchase goes directly toward supporting your creative endeavors.
Here’s the catch: Foundmyself expects you to contribute if you find the site useful or make a sale. The financial details of your transactions on the site aren’t tracked, so it really is a relationship of trust. You keep your earnings, then donate what you think is appropriate.
If you do choose to make a monetary contribution to the site, you will be compensated with “honor points,” which can be exchanged for benefits such as having your work show up on the front page of the site. You can also earn “honor points” by participating in the forum.
Designer Trevor Hunt started the site in 2003 as a small side project. It has since grown into a large, but familiar community.
The Foundmyself site recently underwent a major redesign. New tools offered include standalone artist websites, a drag-and-drop interface, and a “canvas” system in place of a traditional, static gallery page. The “canvas” serves as each artist’s online face to the world, and can be customized with different layouts and widgets. You can add slideshows, newsletter sign-up forms, and other features.
If you choose to set up a standalone website, you can opt for a free version or more full-featured, ad-free websites for a monthly or annual fee.
A recent report from IBISWorld estimates that the Online Art Sales industry in the U.S. was worth about $287.5 million in 2011. This figure includes the sale of original or limited-edition artwork through online galleries, online auctions, online art fairs, and online art dealing and trading. The sales figures included data from 716 businesses and covered the sale of paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, and other media. The sale of reproductions is not included in the report.
According to IBISWorld analysts, the market for online art sales has been growing in line with strong demand from overseas markets and increasing access to internet-based retail outlets. Even as brick-and-mortar art dealers experienced declines during the past five years, online-based art sales have stayed strong.
The growth in art sales through e-commerce and online auctions is expected to continue through 2016, fueled by global growth in consumer spending and increased access through more broadband connections. Mobile apps are anticipated to provide further room for innovation in online art sales.
One reason for the strength of the online art market stems from the nature of its customer base. The goods sold though the largest auction houses are targeted toward high-end consumers. As such, the demand tends to remain constant even during times of greater economic turmoil. Also, the trade-weighted index, which measures the value of the US dollar relative to foreign currencies, has driven export sales to newly industrialized countries. Consumers in those regions have recently found themselves with greater levels of disposable income that can be invested in “soft commodities” such as original works of art.
In addition, online art dealers operate within the larger realm of e-commerce which has shown double-digit growth over the past five years. IBIS analysts believe that art dealers who have an e-tailing or online auction presence are well-positioned to take advantage of consumers’ preference for online shopping.
The full report on Online Art Sales includes Industry trends, statistics, analysis, and market share information. The report can be purchased from IBISWorld for $825.
PHOTOGRAPHERS. One advantage of selling your fine-art photography through a third-party online gallery is that the gallery owner can find innovative ways to display your work on multiple sites that are likely to be seen by more potential buyers. For example, PrintedArt, a web-based collection of fine-art photographs for the hospitality and decor markets, has added a gallery of its high-quality photographs to Amazon.com. The collection features 863 photos by some of PrintedArt’s finest photographers. Available in four sizes, each image is produced as a float-on-the-wall display.
The inkjet prints are produced with highly saturated pigment inks and mounted using gallery-grade materials with aluminum dibond stabilizers and acrylic overlays. “We are pleased to offer such an extensive collection of photos to the Amazon.com audience at such a great price,” said Klaus Sonnenleiter, president of PrintedArt. “It really gives us a chance to introduce our amazing photographers and images to an entirely different customer base.”
Details on how you can have your own images reproduced in contemporary display formats such as acrylic or aluminum dibond are available on the PrintedArt website.
One way to explore different business models for marketing art and photography is to skim through art blogs and online press releases. Some online releases are issued by brick-and-mortar galleries seeking to reach out to people who search for art online. Many online press releases come from start-up businesses or individuals experimenting with new concepts for selling their work. Some new ventures are announced online by targeted bloggers and journalists who reach high-end collectors. Here are four examples:
Rea is inviting other designers, artists, and writers to get in on the action by collaborating with one another to create and sell inspirational wares on the site.
He chose the name “electricity showroom” to describe the creative sparks that can occur when designers, artists, and writers work together. He views the site as a way for creative pros to “make stuff quicker.”
“In advertising, you tend to work on a lot of creative projects at once,” Rea says, “Now that I’m creating my own ventures from the ground up, the timelines are much longer than I typically have patience for. I needed something that would allow me to produce ideas quickly. Collaborating with other artists to make and sell prints direct to consumers seemed like the perfect creative outlet for everyone.”
Chad Rea is a member of ecopop, a Portland, Oregon-based social-innovations collective that lives at the intersection of ecology and pop culture. Ecopop creates brands, art, and activism (aka brand activism) with ventures ranging from men’s accessories made from recycled clothes to charity-based iPhone apps.
Founded over 30 years ago in Basel, Switzerland, Artspace Warehouse now has galleries in Zurich; Cologne, Germany; and Los Angeles, California. Artspace Warehouse specializes in affordable contemporary original art, representing pop, urban, graffiti, and photo styles. The gallery presents an eclectic and every-expanding selection of works from international and local artists at prices for every budget.
The pieces are displayed by category: Value Hunter (from $200 to $400), Savvy Spender (up to $1,000), and Aficianado ($1,000 to $2,000). A collector’s section offers exclusive paintings of museum-quality artists starting at $2,000. The gallery also offers art consultation and commissioned murals.
An Artspace Warehouse press release invited to public to special event at which at which interior designer Deb Gregory spoke about how she is using accessible art and design in her residential and commercial projects. She emphasized that good art and design should be accessible to all, and that interesting environments enrich our lives.
Digital artist Joel Martin Cohen used a press release to announce the launch of his own online gallery, through which visitors may purchase prints of his digital compositions.
Cohen, who has experience both a graphic designer and professional photographer, has been working in the digital art space for more than five years. While some of his visual ideas start with a photograph, he develops the art using the digital tools to create treatments that express how he feels about the subject. Many of his subjects include landscapes, cityscapes, and the natural world.
“I was infatuated with the powerful potential of the new digital processes to create looks that never existed before, as well as new takes on traditional painting techniques,” says Cohen. The pieces in his online gallery range in size from 8 x 10 inches to 20 x 30 inches. Prices range from $20 to $500.
“Given the state of the current economy, some clients find that a smaller piece is more suited for them right now,” Cohen said. “Other clients who are looking for wall art for a new home or office may be interested in some of my larger pieces.”
Exhibition A is a new members-only website that sells editions of printed reproductions of works by top contemporary artists. The site’s founders include fashion designer/art lover Cynthia Rowley and Bill Powers who owners the Half Gallery in New York.
They define their mission as follows: “We’re committed to working with exceptional artists–artists whose work is exhibited at well-respected galleries and sought after by serious collectors–to create editions of their work at prices you can afford.”
Each week Exhibition A will debut one or more editions by a contemporary artist. The artwork will either be sold as a limited edition (with a finite, predetermined number of copies) or as a limited-time open edition (in which no additional prints will be made after the four-week edition sale period has ended). The total number of prints made during a limited-time open edition sale will be revealed in the Archive section of Exhibition A website. This total number may include up to 25 prints that Exhibition A made for its own inventory.
According to a post about Exhibition A by Hannah Elliott on Forbes.com, the prices will range from $200 to $500 for a work on canvas to $100 to $300 on paper. One of the goals of the site is to broaden participation in the world of art without hurting the each artist’s primary collectors.
Some of the artists featured on the site include Francesca Dimattio, Dietmar Busse, Dike Blair, David LaChappelle, Olympia Scarry, Dasha Shiskin, Agathe Snow, and Duncan Hannah. On the Exhibition A, you can read bios of the featured artists as well as interviews with collectors of contemporary art.
PHOTOGRAPHERS. A start-up company called Taproll is hoping to change the way that buyers find and compare photography pros. Taproll belives that as the number of professional and semi-pro photographers has exploded, the tools for connecting photographers with consumers have not kept pace. When searching online for a photographer, the consumer is confronted with a sea of search results, paid link directories, and inconsistent website experiences.
So, Taproll is beta testing a visual-search application that will make it easy for consumers in 10,000 cities to flip through hundreds of large-scale photo galleries to choose the best local photographer for their needs. The company was founded by Michael Quoc, a former product director for Yahoo! who managed product launches in the mobile social and real-time video areas.
Taproll provides a unified search index of photographers around the world. Via a simple and efficient interface, users can swiftly browse through hundreds of high-resolution photographer galleries and zero in on their favorite artists. Users can then access comparison tools, reviews, and pricing information to make an informed hiring decision.
Taproll’s geospatial media search engine will be available for photographers in 10,000 cities worldwide. This means consumers can easily find local photographers who have the desired visual style and capabilities.
“Hiring a photographer should feel less like sorting through search results and more like viewing a photographic gallery,” says Quoc.
For photographers, Taproll offers a change from the current generation of paid photography directories. Taproll is free, and provides high-resolution image hosting, inclusion in the company’s geo-targeted search index, and a fully-featured business page that is already optimized for web search engines such as Google. Quoc says that some photographers are considering using Taproll as their primary business page, because it provides many of the core messaging, analytics and portfolio features of a standalone website. The company plans to announce a set of enhanced features for premium subscribers.
ARTISTS. Zatista.com is an online seller of original art. The art lovers who founded the site believe a growing number of people would prefer to own something unique, rather than a reproduction. Recently, they introduced a service through which buyers can submit commission requests to artists whose works they admire on the Zatista site.
Once the request is submitted, Zatista works with the buyer and artist to ensure that the quoting and payment processes go smoothly. For example, they help the buyer create a well-formed request with all the relevant details, and craft a commission agreement that both the buyer and artist can accept. Buyers aren’t charged for submitting commission requests. Nor are they obligated to accept the quote or follow through with the project.
Artists who are particularly interested in commissions should let the Zatista staff know, because they occassionally receive requests from buyers who does not have a particular artist in mind.
Another service Zatista.com provides is a complimentary art concierge service to help buyers select the right piece of art for their home or office.
How to Sell Your Art
Zatista currently sells original oil paintings, acrylic paintings, charcoal drawings, and mixed media works. They will also sell photographs and prints of digitally created art, as long as each print is hand-signed and numbered in an edition of 100 or less. They don’t sell sculpture, jewelry, furniture, weavings, and other categories of art.
To ensure that the site offers a robust, well-rounded selection of quality art in a variety of mediums, all artists and galleries who want to sell works on the site must be approved by Zatista’s Art Review Board. When you apply, you will be asked to complete a profile and list a minimum of 3 works and a maximum of 5 works.
In addition to evaluating your art, the Art Review Board will take into account how professionally you present it. For example, photographs of your works should be clear, without extraneous objects or lighting glare. Your profile should be well-written, clear, and informative, and your store banner and message should be nicely created. The review process typically takes 3 to 5 days. It’s up to you to set the price for your work.
If your art is accepted for sale on the site, there are no membership or listing fees. Instead, you will be charged a commission when your art is sold. To make original art more affordable to more people, the online sales commission is substantially lower than commissions typically charged by brick-and-mortar galleries. For more information about the artist approval process, visit the FAQ section of the Zatista.com website.
Once your application has been approved, you are encouraged to display additional works and spread that word about Zatista to your Facebook fans and Twitter followers. You can also add a “Buy on Zatista” button to your blog, so visitors to your site know they can easily purchase your work any time day or night.
Zatista was founded by entrepreneurial Internet industry veterans. Their goal is to make the art-buying experience less intimidating and more enjoyable. They also want to make more originals easily accessible to aspiring collectors all over the world who might not be able to explore multiple galleries in big cities to find the art they like.
The Zatista website includes a glossary or art terms, and other information designed to educate and encourage a new generation of collectors.
PHOTOGRAPHERS. As more consumers and professional decorators become more comfortable buying photos and art online, expect to see more diversity in the types of collections and support services being offered to them.
We’ll highlight some of these online galleries on this site so you can see just how many opportunities now exist for marketing your own art and photography online.
PrintedArt.com is a web-based collection of fine-art photography hand-selected for the home décor and hospitality markets by an experienced staff of curators. Every image in the collection is sold as a limited edition and produced in the buyer’s choice of formats.
In addition to selecting the size, the buyer can specify how they want the print prepared for hanging. Prints don’t have to be framed if the buyer chooses to have the photo mounted on aluminum dibond and finished with acrylic or printed on canvas and wrapped on stretcher bars. Or, the customer can choose to have the images printed on art paper for custom framing.
Recently, PrintedArt.com initiated a series of design advisories to help customers envision how multiple images from different photographers might look when grouped together to support a chosen theme.
“The beauty of photography is that you can have amazing prints by different artists, in different color schemes, that have so much in common,” said Klaus Sonnenleiter, president of PrintedArt. “The most important aspect of a theme is that it must speak to you.”
For example, nature comes to life in this group of photos recommended for pairing by PrintedArt’s team of curators. The photos, Rebecca Akporiaye’s “Australian Pelicans,” Lee Rentz’s cleverly composed mountain landscape, and Al Vanderlyn’s dense, mysterious trees inspire an appreciation of the beauty that exists in the natural world and present a seamless theme for display in any home or office.
If you would like to learn more about the company, visit www.PrintedArt.com or meet the staff in person at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, March 17-20 at the Pier 94 exhibition center in New York.