The retail giant is becoming an online intermediary for art galleries and dealers, offering some works priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions.
By Jay Greene
Seattle Times business reporter
A Norman Rockwell oil from his Willie Gillis series is being offered for $4.85 million at Amazon.com’s new fine-art business online.
Amazon.com's one-click buying just got a little more dangerous.
The online retailer Tuesday added a long-rumored art gallery to its shopping offerings, giving customers the opportunity to pick up a $4.85 million oil painting by Norman Rockwell, or Andy Warhol’s “Mao 93” screen print for a mere $200,000.
Not all the works on Amazon Art cost the price of Medina real estate. The site also includes a section for pieces that cost less than $200.
Amazon isn’t selling the art directly to buyers. Instead, it’s created a digital store, Amazon Art, that has more than 40,000 works from more than 150 galleries around the globe, including the Catherine Person Gallery in Seattle.
That keeps the store relatively risk-free for Amazon, which will hold no inventory but take a share of the revenue, from 5 to 20 percent, on each sale. Amazon figures it can generate sales for dealers by bringing them customers from around the world who can’t easily visit their galleries.
“Why should they be limited by the place they live?” said Peter Faricy, vice president for the Amazon Marketplace.
Art dealers already are selling works globally by emailing pictures of pieces to prospective buyers, said Chrissy Crawford, the founder of two New York galleries, ArtStar and LittleCollector, now on Amazon Art. But many dealers aren’t comfortable setting up their own websites to sell fine art, she said.
“Amazon Art allows them to build an e-commerce site without have to invest in one,” Crawford said.
Osman Khan, the chief operating officer and a founding partner of another dealer, Paddle8, has found that art buyers are willing to pay as much as $10,000 for a piece without seeing it in person. That’s particularly true for works by artists with whom customers are familiar.
“If you’re a fan of Lou Reed [the musician whose print, “Roil Sky,” is available from Paddle8 for $500], buying sight unseen is not a problem,” Khan said.
Having the art store moves Amazon even further into premium retail. Last November the company began using its site to sell wine directly from wineries.
It also puts Amazon in competition with art-focused online operators, including Artsy.net and Artnet.com. Costco, too, has dabbled in online art sales, and is currently selling works by Fiora Boes that cost as much as $8,000.
Amazon Art will be available only on the Amazon.com website. So consumers in, say, Canada, won’t be able to find it on the country-specific Amazon.ca site. But they may be able to buy from the store if the gallery involved is willing to ship internationally.
Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: iamjaygreene