Amazon buys way into online art marketplace
Amazon.com has expanded into yet another market — art.
After a few months of courting gallerists, the Amazon Art marketplace launched with more than 40,000 works, a few of which aren't coming from the bargain basement: a $1.45 million Monet, for example, and Norman Rockwell's “Willie Gillis: Package From Home” for $4.85 million. All in one click, with free shipping!
The seller of both those pieces is New Orleans-based M.S. Rau Antiques, which says it's the largest art retailer in North America. It has its very own online catalogu, and as much name recognition as you get in the world of fine collectibles. So why join the Amazon marketplace when it takes a commission of between 5 and 20 percent on each sale? Can they charge more to make up for it?
“A lot of our pieces have slight wiggle room in them,” owner Bill Rau said. “All that means is that there'll be a little bit less profit.”
Talking to Rau, it seems clear that he doesn't think that Amazon threatens brick-and-mortar galleries — all of which can also drive sales on the site — as much as it does the smaller online art marketplaces, such as Artsy, Artnet and Artquid. Having a gigantic reach makes an online sales platform much more valuable.
“They sort of stand above anybody,” Rau said. “There's a number of well-designed places, but it's the newspaper equivalent of The Washington Post. These other guys have a neighborhood pamphlet that they put out in a grocery store.”
A gallery might be represented on another site as well. But if it's getting most of its sales through Amazon anyway, it might figure it's just not worth the trouble — and if Amazon wants to compete even more aggressively, it can lower its commissions (Artnet charges 15 percent, and Artsy charges between 10 and 15 percent). In that way, this market is different from books, which publishers want to place in as many points of sale as possible.
Eventually, Amazon may just decide to buy up the smaller marketplaces that have something unique to offer.
Lydia DePillis is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh Regatta will go on without boats, water events
- Rossi: Rutherford shines as old boss pouts
- Crane tips over, smashes into roof of building at Pitt
- Record-breaking solar-powered plane lands in Hawaii after flight from Japan
- LaBar: What’s killing professional wrestling
- Public implored to avoid iPhone cases that resemble guns
- Former Jeannette coach held for trial on charges of assault on teen girls
- Homebrewers timid when choosing commercial styles
- Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Tigers
- Lower Burrell couple charged with 6 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty
- Penguins’ Kessel ‘thrilled’ with chance to play with Crosby, Malkin