How online art galleries are serving up talent — and sales — without the 'tude

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You know that awful feeling of walking into a snooty art gallery and the staff vaguely lifts up their heads and gives you the once-over?

“We’re the opposite of that,” said Rebecca Wilson, chief curator for

What Wilson is describing speaks to the engine behind the online market for original art, which saw global sales rise 15% in 2016 to $3.75 billion — because when you’re browsing online art galleries, no one cares how big your entourage is.

Thoughtfully curated, original art and limited- or open-edition prints showcased in online galleries such as SaatchiArt, Tappan, UGallery and Pure Photo are successfully bridging a gap between emerging artists and aspiring collectors by creating access to talent while sidestepping high-end, bricks-and-mortar galleries.

“I think our customer is someone who wasn’t going to physical galleries,” said Alex Farkas, gallery director for, “whether because of geography or a certain level of intimidation that can exist in the physical gallery realm.”

For Los Angeles home style expert Emily Henderson, author of “Styled,” it was limited time, money and a desire for young, contemporary artwork that inspired her foray into online art buying several years ago.

“I had been buying art at flea markets, but I wasn’t getting anything contemporary,” said Henderson. “I felt like my house was full of vintage landscapes, seascapes and abstract paintings from the ’60s… pretty, but it wasn’t feeling modern enough.”

She found photography and drawings online, and a contemporary art collector was born.

But you don’t have to be a design expert to navigate the online art world.

Search filters usually include size, medium, style, subject, location, artist and price; and most sites offer a chance to read about each artist and browse curated, themed presentations aimed at assisting in the journey of discovery.

Some online galleries such as SaatchiArt and UGallery offer complimentary art advisory services by email and phone to provide a personal touch.

Original works of art are delivered with a signed certificate of authentication, and most galleries can provide a list of preferred vendors for installation or framing upon request.

Does this mean the end of wine and cheese gallery openings?

“No, not at all,” said Chelsea Nassib, co-founder of Tappan. “ I think it’s a beautiful experience, and important for people to see work in person… I think that the online spaces are going to work hand in hand with the existing galleries moving forward.”

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