Why the Internet Won’t Actually Change the Game for Unrepresented Artists

In any marketplace where quality and value are almost entirely subjective, most buyers crave expert guidance. And the primary art market is a textbook example.

Even among relatively experienced collectors, a tacit assumption animates the gallery sector: Anyone with the confidence, passion, and resources to open a for-profit exhibition space in such an uncertain industry must know what he’s doing, at least to some extent. And the less knowledgeable the buyer is, the more willing he will usually be to trust in a purported specialist.

Unfortunately, such trust is not always warranted.

Unlike, for example, an attorney’s need to become bar-certified or a securities broker’s need to pass the Series 7 exam, an aspiring gallerist requires no formal scholarly or business training to sell art circa 2017.

In fact, opening an American gallery today demands less verified evidence of expertise than installing home-entertainment systems, braidinghair, or pumping gas—three occupations for which certain US states still require specific training or certification exams.

Professional associations exist in the art trade, but they are generally by-invitation-only groups with little practical impact. Case in point: As of June 2017, the most prominent such organization in the US, the Art Dealers Association of America, still did not count Larry Gagosian as a member.

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Chris Alexakisart