Great news for enthusiasts, purveyors, and collectors that love art. There is an increase in online art auctions and platforms around the world making the medium more accessible for everyone via technology.

Online art sales had reached US$3.6 billion in 2014, about 6% of all worldwide sales, according to The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF). This figure represents an increase from US$2.8 billion in the previous year (5% of global sales). These figures match TEFAF growth estimates of online sales at a minimum rate of 25% per annum.

In the global art market report released by TEFAF in 2013, the report states that “the price level at which people are comfortable to purchase online is slowly moving up, as new generations of collectors become involved.” Founders of online art platforms from Asia agree.

“The world’s attention is focus on the million dollar paintings. If we can increase the supply, we can attract new source of demand. This makes art sustainable for the starving artists,” said Melvin Yuan, Founder and CEO of The Commissioned, an online platform based out of San Francisco and Singapore that allows people to buy custom art by artists. Commissions go from few hundred to a couple of thousand American dollars.

“Our main customers are 25 to 40 year olds who are used to purchasing everything online and we’ve set our price point to be accessible,” said Alexandra Eu, co-founder of ART LOFT, an online platform that allows buying or renting of artworks by emerging Asian contemporary artists based out of Singapore.

Art Loft Founders: Qiuyan Tian, Michelle Chan and Alexandra Eu (from left to right)

Art Loft Founders: Qiuyan Tian, Michelle Chan and Alexandra Eu (from left to right)

They also echoed that accessibility goes beyond price.

Eu adds, “ART LOFT strives to give arts exposure in mediums and spaces that are unexpected to keep the experience fun and accessible. When Singapore celebrated its 50th year of independence last year, ART LOFT collaborated with Uber to showcase the works of 5 Singaporean designers on 50 Uber cars that double up as moving canvas.”


Accessibility also includes co-creation.

“As a buyer, I can never find the perfect art piece. Commissioned art can make a difference in the life of the artist and buyer. Someone who can’t paint can now participate in the creative process,” said Yuen.

Melvin Yuan, Founder of The Comissioned with a commissioned self-portrait.

Melvin Yuan, Founder of The Comissioned with a commissioned self-portrait.

So far, there are close to 10 English-based online platforms sell artworks without physical galleries. Artsy and Paddle8 are some of the fastest growing venture-backed startups worldwide. Artsy raised US$25 million in March 2015, adding up to a total of US$50.88 million since its inception in 2009, while Paddle8 raised US$34 in October 2015, bringing a total of US44 million since 2011.

The world’s leading auction houses are not taking a back seat. Christies hold its own online sales while Sotheby’s collaborated with eBay in 2015 to hold five online-only auctions.

What are the trends that are fueling interest in this space and how is it different in Asia?


Yuen highlights that how we are connected as a society through mobile devices and the internet has been a great enabler for online art platforms. “The emerging pool of artists now have the ability to connect with buyers.” Eu adds, “The art scene in the region has changed significantly, especially in Southeast Asia. There are double to triple more art fairs that are attracting high quality collectors from the region. It’s hard to say if online galleries will completely replace physical galleries in the future.”

“Art is still very experiential and interactive, and it’s difficult to replicate that online. However, I do see the trend of gallery spaces shrinking since this can be replaced with art fairs.”

Whether you are commissioning art for your family or personal collection, or renting a collection for your restaurant, it’s definitely easier and more affordable to acquire art thanks to the rise of online startups in the art market. Customers stand to gain from more service-centric offerings priced within their means while the artists benefit from having a younger market accessing and appreciating their works.

Art needs more than just an audience. The fact that art can now exist beyond the physical world of art galleries and the elite circles opens conversations and appreciation to a more expansive audience. Every artist desires to be remembered, thus enabling access to a larger audience would serve to honour their artistic legacy — whether it’s in the digital world or the physical.

Daylon Soh

Daylon Soh

Design Founder at CuriousCore
Creative Rebel, Marketer & Managing Editor of @OpenBrief. ♥ Digital Photography, Copywriting & Gaming
Daylon Soh
Daylon Soh

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