The global art market was worth $64.1bn in 2019 and the UK was the second-largest market in the world with a 22% ($12.7bn) share, behind the US’s 44% ($28.3bn) share. It is an important market to the UK economy and as with most industries, these figures although incredible, represent a 5% global reduction against 2018. 

And like with almost all industries, technology could be the thing that gets it back to growth, opens it up to even more people and changes the way that people talk about and experience the market. 

But before we get too deep into how and where technology can and is being used in the art world, we thought it might be best to start with a little about the world itself. 

There are many levels to the market and to make things even more confusing, there are levels to the levels. 

In terms of entry to the market, the work will arrive in one of two ways. Primary, where new art comes to the market for the first time and Secondary, for existing art that has been sold at least once before. 

You’ve then got the High End, Middle Market, and the Low End. Each of these has vastly different value definers dependant on the age of the work, how prolific and collectable the artist is, demand for the style of work, numbers produced etc etc etc. 

Needless to say, what one person defines as art may not be what another does. As a general rule, if you’re selling pieces of art be that an original painting, a sculpture or a print, numbered or otherwise, you’re in the art market. 

Where technology comes into play is its ability to allow customers to experience the work in a way not previously possible. 

For the longest time, the way to buy art was from the artist direct, from art fairs and shows or through a gallery or auction house. Each of these avenues came with a set of challenges. How did you find the artists? When did you know if there was going to be a fair or show? And galleries and auctions can pose a sense of intimidation to the uninitiated. 

Then along came the internet and a lot of these challenges cleared themselves up but they brought with them a whole new level of challenge. Work was now behind a screen and some of what makes art, art disappeared. 

Art, in any form, needs to be experienced. You need to be able to get close to it and see the work the artist has put into every piece. By getting close to the work, you’re able to get a sense of its scale. 

An example of this is perfectly presented when we look at the Mona Lisa. Below are two pictures. The first is what people see when they look it up online. The second is the actual scale of the masterpiece. If you’d bought it online from the first image and the second turned up, you might be a little underwhelmed.

  

Left:Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – Public Domain. Right: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

 

But if it could be presented in a format that gave an accurate representation, that could be brought into your space before you ever purchased it, the experience would be totally different. And the good news is there is now a way.  

 

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF AR. 

AR or augmented reality is the sister to virtual reality or VR and what it does is remarkable. Through the use of your mobile phone, you’re able to bring items out of the digital world, into the real world and experience them in a truly accurate and ‘real’ way. 

The use of these types of technology have already started and with some big players taking huge steps toward making it part of the experience and buying journey, now is the time for the rest of the art world to start to follow suit. 

Last year at Art Basel 2019, artist Paul McCarthy showcased a piece from 2017 created in virtual reality. The work was created as 11 virtual reality experiments, using motion capture to transfer the real movements of the actresses into virtual reality.

 

Image Credit: Paul McCarthy & Art|Basel

 

And this year, Etsy, one of the world’s largest online marketplaces, launched AR for over 5 million paintings, photographs and prints via their app allowing customers to virtually place works on walls in their home to experience what they’d look like physically. 

Any gallery owner, high street art retailer, online art retailer or auction house should seriously be considering this technology for their business. Giving people the ability to bring the work into their own spaces helps to remove doubt and offers reassurance to customers that the work is going to fit their space and the surroundings of where it is to be hung. 

This type of technology becomes even more important when you take into consideration world affecting events such as COVID 19. Lockdown brought physical spaces to a grinding halt and forced people online. The experience of being able to get up close and see the artwork in a real space was gone.  

AR would have bridged this gap and allowed customers to ‘try before they buy’, placing the work in their homes, giving a sense of what that online purchase would look like when it turns up. 

Auction houses are becoming more and more reliant on digital and this growing trend can be further enhanced with AR. Think of what allowing people on the other side of the globe to bring the work into their homes would do to the potential sale price. 

Having been an art dealer in my past working life, a lot of my time was spent taking paintings to and from clients houses so that they could get a sense of what it would look like in their house. Beyond the time required to achieve this, the risk of damage to work is immense. Having to safely pack, unpack and repack work every time somebody wanted to ‘see if it might work’ represented an opportunity for damage to occur. And it goes without saying but damage equals a reduction in value. 

If I could offer the entire gallery to a client, via a virtual experience this entire process would have been streamlined and smoothed out. They could pick through the ones that best suited the need and shortlisted it down to one or two rather than 12 or 14. 

For artists and resellers, this technology allows them to put the work in the hands of people like interior designers. They are some of the biggest assets to the growing of an art business. They have the clients looking to fulfil a need and their trusted relationship can be a doorway to exposing new artists and work without the high-cost risks. 

 

BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE 

The application of this type of technology goes far beyond just the resale of work. If national galleries and museums were to adopt this type of technology, history could be brought into the classrooms. 

Allowing students to take their digital devices and experience artists work through the ages in an environment set up to facilitate learning is invaluable. We haven’t all got the ability to travel the world to see these things in the ‘flesh’ but being able to walk up to and around the work is an incredibly close second. 

The power this technology brings to education is immeasurable. And art is just the tip of the iceberg. 

 

APPLYING THE TECHNOLOGY 

The first instinct for many is to go down the road of developing an app. We all use them, and our phones are full of them, but this is a mistake for many. 

Research has found that 75% of app downloads open the app once and never come back and it also puts a barrier in the way of the sales process. The chance of the person going off to download the app and then getting distracted is huge. Since the year 2000 to now, people’s attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to 8. 

The correct way to do this is to apply the technology directly to your websites. You’ve done all the hard work getting people to it, so why not take advantage of the asset you already have and not invest money into another platform. 

At Eclipse, we’ve developed the technology that plugs straight into your website. Our Augmented Reality E-commerce Solution, Ares, changes the game and is all about enhancing the online shopping experience for the end-user.  

Ares is dedicated to leveraging the power of AR and 3D for so much more than entertainment – it exists as your next step for achieving peak eCommerce performance. 

And the reason it is changing the game is that it works straight from the web browser or mobile device, no apps or downloads required. It can be plugged into any website or e-commerce platform and Ares works on the latest Android and iOS devices. 

Ares is a full end-to-end AR service. You don’t need to be an AR expert to get the best out of Ares. Take a look here to find out more about how Ares can revolutionise the way you sell online.