BY STACY McCORMICK
I experienced the beginning of my career like many young artists. The excitement of becoming a “real” artist after graduation, after devoting years of study and practice, coincided with feeling adrift and ill-prepared to support my needs by my work.
Having had the good fortune to open a solo exhibition with a gallery within six months of graduating, I was faced with the rude awakening of the 50/50 sales split.
Emerging artists cover 100% of production costs. The gallery’s brand name and clientele definitely add value. But the role and strength of the art establishment in the career development of artists is outsized.
I remember selling pieces, earning a fraction of the profit from works I had invested so much creative energy in, thinking, “Surely there must be another way?
The advent of the digital age has changed everything and the art world has been slow to convert. Today, online life is reality and technological change is finally reaching the art world. The model is simple. Eliminate the middleman – the galleries – while preserving the network effect so crucial to finding buyers in the dispersed art market.
Digital pioneers are creating functional online marketplaces and applications to lower the barrier of entry to buying and selling art. This benefits buyers and empowers artists.
Overcoming the Western bias of the art market
The traditional gallery model is not only unfair to individual artists. It also structurally disadvantages non-Western art. In contrast, a digital art market can be a truly global initiative, providing exposure and recognition for African artists.
Admittedly, contemporary African art is emerging at a remarkable speed on the world stage. Sold at world-renowned auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and exhibited in premier galleries, stellar names like Roméo Mivekannin and Peju Alatise celebrate successes and have captured the attention of collectors.
Nevertheless, most artists from emerging countries cannot overcome the barriers of the traditional art world – a conservative sector where diseases present in all the courses of life often run unchecked: unequal distribution of opportunities, nepotism and prejudices. .
Furthermore, many African artists, Nigerian artists being no exception, still leave their home countries to pursue education and career opportunities in the West. Often, they are forced to adapt and reshape their practice according to the imperatives of the cultural market.
Foreign galleries representing African artists contribute to the relocation of local talent – and the flight abroad of profits and commissions on sales from domestic markets.
While local arts communities are making huge efforts to create international networks, African governments are struggling to support arts education, businesses, institutions – the infrastructure needed to connect to the art market.
The digital art market model
The promise of the digital world is clear: to remedy the center-periphery imbalance of the art world by empowering artists and collectors, bypassing the gatekeepers. With Nigeria’s highly digitized population, Fair Art Fair will serve as a tool to open up a ‘glocal’ intermediary market for local art, giving artists the opportunity to showcase and promote their works on their own terms – to national and global audiences. .
art fair is designed to make it easy for buyers to find artists, contact them directly, and buy commission-free. The app promotes, catalyzes and encourages buying and selling, but never takes a share of artists’ sales. Instead, the platform is backed by a digital subscription business model. By charging equal rates to all users – artists, brokers or private buyers – the entire ecosystem costs individuals a fraction of what a transaction through traditional galleries would require.
The app gives artists greater visibility and helps with administration; while buyers, both seasoned and new, can discover new artists and ultimately connect and buy directly from them, fostering a direct and transparent relationship that empowers both artist and collector, opening up the world art hitherto exclusive to a greater percentage of the population. The format is appealing to a new generation of tech-savvy art collectors, young artists, or indeed anyone looking to explore the art market.
The influx of money into the art markets of emerging countries would be the first step in creating a more decentralized and autonomous global market. The adoption of these new technological solutions will provide a level playing field, a first in the art world.
African artists – and young artists around the world – need not adopt the model that excludes them or forces them to change their national character in order to appeal to the big names in galleries. Instead, disrupting the current system and building their own is the way to go.
Stacie McCormick, who sent this piece to Business am from the UK, is an American-born artist based in the UK; and the Founder and Managing Director of Fair Art Fair, a pioneering art-based digital platform that facilitates relationships between everyone interested in art in a transparent and trusting environment, enabling artists and buyers art of establishing a direct relationship.
I’m on business. is committed to posting a diversity of views, opinions and commentary. He therefore welcomes your reaction to this article and to any of our articles by e-mail: [email protected]