After seeing the press release from Amazon.com announcing that they were getting into the business of fine art, I had to sit down quickly and reach for a cool beverage (rhymes with rose). What an interesting idea! It promises “works of art from more than 150 galleries and dealers via Amazon Art, which features 40,000 works from more than 4,500 artists”. Yikes!
So of course I immediately went to my trusty computer – and there it was, in all of its’ glory. Or at least in Beta. Feeling a bit curious, I decided to search for “Warhol”. And sure enough, there was a print from Hamilton-Selway Fine art, of two angels for $5,500. Now, I had never heard of Hamilton Selway before, so I went to look at their website – an LA gallery carrying things like Basquiat prints. But wait, why are all those dated 2005 – when he died in 1988? Never mind.
Then I thought to myself, self, how about a nice decorative print …. something by Stubbs, perhaps. And low and behold, there, offered by Donald Heald Rare Books was an enamel (wait – did Stubbs do enamels? ), called Sharke, offered for – wait for it - $4,000. But mercifully, the shipping is free. Now, I know just a little bit about Stubbs, and have been to see his paintings (which go for a fortune), his drawings (slightly less of a fortune) and his prints (rather reasonably priced). And this one – wait – didn’t it sell not so long ago for around $500? Perhaps this is a misprint?
Happily, I had a full bottle (well, almost full) of a refreshing beverage to hand, so I decided to investigate just a little bit more…..and what I found was reviews. I read several, but the one that made me snort most (in a very ladylike fashion of course) was this by Megan Willett :
http://www.businessinsider.com/comments-on-amazon-art-2013-8 (Slate and the NYTimes also weighed in).
A bit more interestingly, there were works offered by artists themselves, some of which were quite good and very affordable. And for first-time buyers, not only can you search by colour and theme and price, there was also a rather spiffy gizmo where you could see how the picture you were thinking of would look in a (rather minimally decorated) room. It did leave me unsure – Is Amazon trying to be like Saatchi, with zillions of unknown artists, or more like an on-line auction house/gallery?
Of course, the most interesting thing is that it’s Amazon. Amazon. Which has plenty of resources and plenty of reach…..International reach at that…But for all of their smarts, how come they don’t have somebody from the art world on board saying – hey – these prices are nuts (for example) – and what in heavens name is a unique enamel Stubbs etching? And who recruited the artists – and galleries? All questions for another day….but more importantly – where did I put the corkscrew?