It’s been nearly five years since Amazon launched its online marketplace for fine art, with success seemingly mixed. Initially the marketplace partnered with more than 150 galleries and dealers across the US in order to sell fine art, with users initially being able to browse more than 40,000 works of fine art. Today has more than 88,000 paintings, prints, photographs, drawings, and mixed media projects for sale.
However, despite billing itself as a repository and marketplace for the sale of fine art (going as far as to employee three different curators, Linda Kaplan Thaler, Chuck Porter, and Mike Geiger) the marketplace seems geared towards a very different market.
Art is arranged in a way that markets it, not to the collector, but to the person looking to add something to their home decor. The sizing, color, and imagery categories seem to ask “what do you have room for in your house?” and “what do you think would go best with your couch?” rather than the questions that the, now missing, Fine Art Buying guide originally had on their site. Questions like “What is ‘Fine Art’?” and “What is a ‘collection’ and how do I start one?”
This may be due in part to how users originally reacted to higher ticket items on the platform though, leaving incredibly sarcastic reviews on some of the more expensive pieces. These days, the “shop by price” feature no longer focuses on higher ticket items but instead sorts into “under $250,” “$250 to $500,” “$500 to $1,000,” “$1,000 to $2,500,” and $2,500 and above” price ranges.
But that’s not to say that the marketplace hasn’t done a wonderful job of sharing new and interesting artists with the public. In 2016 Amazon Art partnered with Art Week Miami to put together a special project. Working directly with Vandalog and seven street artists prints they created a series of prints that brought in a completely different customer base and was overwhelmingly positive.
However, very few people seem to have heard about the project, and the marketplace itself has garnered very little news over the last several years. This is a shame, given some of the art available on the marketplace is quite wonderful. Take Rhiannon Salisbury’s take on Plato’s Cave:
Or Vic Herman’s Mosquitos Will Bite when the Fish Don’t. Vic Herman considers himself bi-national, having grown up in a Mexican community in Los Angeles and embracing both American and Mexican culture. As such, Herman strives to accurately depict the daily lives of Mexican citizens. With Norman Rockwell-like realism, Herman captures the minute and charming details of the everyday through intensive in-situ sketches and study.
There’s also Philip McKay’s I’ve Found Heaven, in which the artist attempts to fuse “the timeless elegance of black and white photography with the bold drama of Surrealist art.”
And of course, Robert Bowen’s WASP has to be included simply because of his description, where he defines himself as “the bastard son of 1000 maniacs” who “watched entirely too much t.v. as a kid… Bowen got his start through graffiti and street art, and went on to obtain a classical education as a painter. His work is a strange, swirling brew of colorful contradiction that is not easy to define or even understand, but that seems quite to the point.”
Even if Amazon Art doesn’t sell as many big ticket pieces as it originally planned to, perhaps this new direction will serve the general public – and small artists- in a much better and more effective way.