Art & Design Columns

Should the art gallery be threatened by the Internet?

Few tactile things still matter. In the realm of art, tactility — with limitations — is everything. Perhaps in the same way that avid readers still relish the book store hunt, as opposed to swiping through available titles online, appreciators of art would agree that an artwork’s real-life impact, its ability to draw tears, gasps and precious silence from the viewer is a testament to its creator’s genius. While we are not allowed to touch it, seeing the ridges of paint, those strokes of labor, the physical translation from light to shadow, from flesh to flush, is good enough contact.

Collectors are different. Purchasing power doesn’t diminish their capacity to appreciate art in the same passionate, romantic way, but it does arm them with the ability to “swipe right” on an artwork instantly on any given sleepless Sunday night. With business models shifting to virtual platforms — Uber, Spotify and Netflix, to name a few — it was only a matter of time until the art market followed suit; the need for speedy transactions is not exclusive to transportation, after all.

ArtAndOnly is one such entity. An online gallery founded by Frédéric de Senarclens, a Swiss art dealer who has had physical galleries in Geneva and Singapore, ArtAndOnly is a new ventures that explores this modern platform of getting art to collectors.

First, the obvious question — does this mean we’re not going to look at actual art before our eyes anymore? No. ArtAndOnly is a mediator between the physical works and the mobile collector, as most virtual platforms are between consumers to suppliers. Rather than taking away the visceral relationship that a collector establishes with a piece of art by seeing it in real life, it acts as a portal through which the selection process is made easier and even customized to the collector’s interests, and facilitating the process of viewing and acquiring.

“ArtAndOnly is a curated platform where each piece is carefully selected through a rigorous artistic line, exactly like in a physical gallery. Our expertise and network in contemporary art is a huge benefit to collectors who are looking to be personally guided through the buying or selling process with a trusted and confidential partner. The platform is the premier source in the art market for collectors who are looking to acquire interesting artworks from both renowned and emerging artists,” he explains. “Running galleries in Switzerland and then in Asia brought us a great understanding of both the Eastern and Western art scenes.  Our experience in Asia proved invaluable as it offered us an expanded vision of the art market that ultimately led to this new global online project. Living in Singapore for more than six years allowed us to discover a wider range of artists not only from South East Asia, but also from China, Korea, India, Pakistan and Australia. In Singapore, we also developed an understanding of how new media can increase our global reach. Thanks to our strong online presence, we realized we had followers and collectors from all over the world.”

Here’s our interview with Senarclens on ArtAndOnly and the important question: How is the Internet changing the art market?

GIST: You’ve mentioned that the physical gallery is becoming less relevant — is this also the case in Asia? What has your experience been like in Singapore?

SENARCLENS: Our gallery space in an Art deco building was quite spectacular and we were more than happy to be an important player in the Singaporean art scene. However, our experience in Asia gave us an expanded vision of the art market, how it is changing and the ability to use new media to reach people all around the world. With a solid online presence, we began selling increasingly to clients outside Singapore. This success led to the idea that a broad web platform would be really valuable to artists and collectors. Today, ArtAndOnly’s online strategy addresses those needs and assists in an “uberisation” of the market.


What advantages does an online platform offer the buyer/collector that a physical gallery doesn’t?

ArtAndOnly’s global online platform provides infinitely more possibilities to buy, sell and discover new work around the world. By dematerializing the old brick-and-mortar model, we are able to give collectors the unique opportunity to access the market directly. In the traditional model, it’s not always easy for collectors to resell an artwork. Generally, galleries don’t like to take back works and the auction market can be very tricky. ArtAndOnly provides collectors with the right partner and new options for selling or buying art.

How does an artist apply for consignment? What are your criteria?

ArtAndOnly believes in quality, not in quantity. Our criteria are the same as in our former gallery, whether the artists are extremely famous or at the beginning of their career. We combine our expertise and eye for talent with numerous curators to evaluate and identify each piece’s quality, uniqueness and excellence. ArtAndOnly is a high-end platform, and when considering a new work, it is this strong selection process which allows us to offer the most interesting and exclusive works to a wider audience.

Do you also sometimes approach an artist you are interested in? 

We are pleased to have long-term relationships with some very interesting artists and are always looking forward to developing more. Artists today are looking at new ways to increase awareness of their work. Through our blog, Le Journal, we not only provide an ideal platform to convey ideas, news, and trends in the marketplace, but also share our passion for contemporary art.

How does a collector go about with the purchase? You have to register to see the complete collection or is it available to all?

Anyone can see the complete collection, but there are benefits of being a registered user. By registering, you can easily follow artists you’re interested in and get instant updates about their new works delivered right to your inbox. In addition, you can create wish lists of pieces and receive monthly summaries about all the activity you’re involved in. We know collectors want to stay up-to-date on an artist or artwork they are attracted to.

From your experience, how has the behavior of collectors changed in the last five to 10 years? Any significant changes driving the market today?

After many years running galleries in Switzerland and Asia, we noticed collectors’ habits had changed dramatically. In the past, collectors were often exclusive to a single dealer or a gallery, but the web radically changed the art market. Collectors now research artists online and travel to art fairs, but they are visiting their local galleries less. This realization is what drove us to create ArtAndOnly. With us, collectors now have a trusted partner to easily access a much wider market directly and buy globally.

Do you see other galleries following in the footsteps of ArtAndOnly? Without the quality of your network, it seems like a pretty tough business to pull off.

We are certainly providing a highly valuable service that the changing art market has demanded, and our extensive relationships with collectors, artists and curators is what gives us the ability to create this unique network and platform. Whether other galleries are able to adapt or not, building an online platform is a massive project that involves a great understanding of all the parameters of running a gallery, plus exceptional knowledge of new technologies and global e-commerce. We also wanted to bring our soul to this new venture. Along with our expertise, passion and experience, we’ve created the premiere marketplace for collectors who are looking for a high-end partner in selling or buying art.

Most things “traditional” are threatening to disappear and go online — newspapers, magazines, CDs, and now art galleries. Where do you see art going in the future? Should gallery owners be afraid? 

We are proud to be able to adapt to the changes in the art market, not resist them. Traditional galleries today face a lot of challenges when you consider the business model has not changed much in centuries, while the mentalities of artists and collectors have changed significantly. We are excited to be on the cutting edge of this evolution of the market with our new venture.


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