The Evolving Art Market

When Jane Wesman decided to part with her dramatic nightscape by Brooklyn-based artist Bradley Castellanos, she didn’t take it to a gallery or auction house. She turned to the newest alternative for de-accessioning art and posted it online with Collectors Concessions. Megan Batzer, who heard about the site from a friend, found the work—and now it hangs in her living room. “The piece is everything the website portrayed,” says Batzer. “It has a very surrealistic element, and I love the mixed-media effect of photo collage with layers of oil and acrylic paint.” Just as the web is revolutionizing retail sales, the convenience and immediacy of the internet is changing art world procedures. 

Established in 2016, Collectors Concessions was conceived by Richard and Eileen Ekstract, founders of this magazine. Longtime art aficionados, they found they were keeping too many of their acquisitions in storage. “Collectors love to collect and many can’t stop,” Eileen explains. “We circulate the pieces, hang new ones, but you get to a point where you want to share works you like with other people.”

Conventionally, collectors have sought out auction houses or galleries to sell off unwanted works, but both present drawbacks. The third party must accept the items for resale and then may display them only to gallery goers and potential bidders. Some novice buyers are intimidated by unfamiliar art world procedures. What’s more, auction buyers are charged an additional 15–20 percent buyers premium over the accepted bid, and gallery prices have to cover the overhead for services, plus bricks and mortar.

At Collectors Concessions, shoppers can browse at leisure through offerings that have been pre-vetted by experienced owners. Sellers fill out an online form describing the piece for sale, its provenance and the price, which incorporates a commission under 10 percent. Data on the sellers is listed on the website, and only known collectors are allowed to post art. After selecting an item, buyers make payment online. The seller quotes a shipping fee paid by the buyer, who receives the purchase sight unseen. Art consultants recommend obtaining documentation—bills of sale and provenance.
There is no procedure for returns.

Gallery owners caution that internet shoppers forego services provided by established dealers: consistent relationships, one-on-one art consultations, in-home evaluations, guidance in framing and lighting, delivery and installation. Dealers may provide introductions to artists and may lend artworks to take home on approval. Some galleries have online services of their own. “We have an app that allows you to take a picture of your wall, then drag and drop pictures into your space, adjusting the size to fit,” says Sorrelle Gallery director Sandra Pelletier. “An online platform may not represent the artwork well, the color has to be right. But it’s a way to rule things out before going forward with a purchase.” 

When perusing websites that sell from collectors or directly from artists and studios, buyers have to be aware of their goals, notes art advisor and former Sotheby’s contemporary art director Linda Silverman. “Do you want something to look pretty on the walls?” she asks. “Or do you want to collect challenging artists who may become part of art history, pieces that may have resale value?” Whatever the aim, she concurs that the role of the web is increasing: “The ease of access is so appealing, it’s the future.”