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Entrepreneur with a passion for art Jonas Almgren has witnessed the power of the internet in establishing artists’ careers

4 min read

Becoming an artist might just be the worst career choice anyone could make. But for artists it’s rarely a choice. They have to create art, even if it could be a losing proposition.

However, the good news is that the art market is expanding, fuelled by a growing international audience who can now be reached through the internet. In addition, there is an overall consumer trend towards authentic and handmade goods.

Gone are the days when the mass market for art was all about cheap reproductions and canvas prints. And gone are the days when the global art market was dominated by a handful of successful galleries.

Artists and galleries, that previously could only reach a local audience, now have a global reach online and unrepresented artists, who formerly had few chances to develop a professional career, now have the opportunity to make their own fortune. At long last, the art market is being truly democratised.

Seemingly, when it comes to the frequency at which a company can broadcast their content, art changes the rules

We recently signed up 81-year-old artist Maurice Sapiro, who found success in galleries across America until the recent economic downturn. Over the last couple of years Maurice has developed an online presence with the help of his son. He set up his own website and joined various online art companies and saw an immediate upshot in his sales.

I asked Maurice what impact the internet had on his career and he told me: “I have received fan mail from just about every country in the world. I always thought that if my work could be seen it would be appreciated, but until the web this was just a dream.”

But the internet does not only provide new sales opportunities, it also provides new creative opportunities. By reaching a more diverse, international audience, artists no longer have to satisfy the tastes of a local audience; they can operate with fewer restrictions, and can be more creative and explore new artistic avenues.

Some people still question whether it’s possible to sell art online, so when we launched an iPhone app to sell art, it did turn some heads. I heard comments like: “The iPhone is perfect for locating exhibitions; but to sell art, that’s ridiculous!” And: “Maybe on a tablet, but on a phone, no way!” We knew that 50 per cent of our traffic and 25 per cent of our sales were already coming from mobile devices, but still it was definitely a gamble.

We launched the app mid-February, focusing on storytelling and inspirational “Art of the Day” features, while hoping to get a few sales in there too. To our amazement, it’s now contributing 14 per cent of our mobile sales, including tablets. It seems to have fulfilled a latent need and could be described as a breath of fresh air.

The fascinating thing about products, such as Art of the Day, is that we can send our users emails and push notifications every day without feeling like we’re bombarding them with spam. Consistently high open rates tell us that our users enjoy the opportunity to take five minutes out of each day to be inspired by a work of art. Seemingly, when it comes to the frequency at which a company can broadcast their content, art changes the rules.

It’s this element of inspiration which makes art special and is why I think any company wishing to sell art online should have inspirational stories at the core of its business.

But art is not only about commerce; it’s also about inspiration. Amelia, a struggling artist, wrote to us and said: “Last night I was reading all your articles and getting completely absorbed in the app. I picked up my sketchbook, dusted off the cobwebs and sketched for hours. I can honestly say that I haven’t drawn, sketched or painted since 2009 and I thank you all so much for creating this inspiring little app.”

This is what makes art special. It’s not about commerce, it’s about inspiration. And without inspiration, there will be no commerce.