The Internet is a remarkably user-friendly way to navigate the art world. The World Wide Web can be used to do background research on an artist or type of art that interests you, to locate dealers specializing in that work, to scout available inventory and to check prices. The Web offers access to art and galleries all over the world. Email makes it easy to initiate a relationship with a gallery that you might not readily be able to visit.
However, no one polices the Web for accuracy, and the Internet must be approached with intelligence and a degree of caution. Art-historical information is only as good as the source from which it comes. Internet sellers may post images of works they do not actually have access to, or that are incorrectly described or not authentic. Prices need to be understood within the larger context of the art market, and are often meaningless when you have not seen the work in person. Many Internet portals offer listings of dealers and art works for sale, but these are for the most part paid services that are not screened for quality or reliability.
The CINOA website is different. Only CINOA affiliated dealers who have been vetted by the CINOA member trade association can be present on the CINOA website.
BUYING While the Internet can be helpful in researching an acquisition, the actual process of buying art takes place in the real world and should not differ substantially from any other kind of art purchase.
Unlike books or appliances, most art works are unique, and unless you are buying a low-cost multiple, you will not want to simply pop the item into your online “shopping cart” and proceed to “checkout.” After you have located a work or artist that interests you, call or email the dealer. Ask questions about provenance. Does the dealer perhaps have other works by the same artist that might interest you more? Get a description of the condition and a good photograph, and be sure to see the piece in person before making a final commitment. If it is not possible to visit the dealer, ask him or her to send the work on approval for a specified period of time. In such cases, most dealers will demand payment in advance, but will agree to refund the money if the work is returned in good condition within an agreed-upon time period. Be sure, however, that the terms of the agreement are confirmed in writing, and that the dealer is reliable and reputable.
ONLINE AUCTIONS So far, attempts to sell higher-priced unique art through online auctions have not proved very successful. The risks attendant to buying on unvetted websites such as eBay are simply too great. EBay and similar sites essentially act as neutral conduits between buyers and sellers, who are solely responsible for delivering on their promises. Services such as Paypal, which withhold payment from the seller until the item has been satisfactorily received by the buyer, cannot wholly guard against disappointment or fraud. EBay-style auctions generally take place over a period of days, with incremental bids posted online as they are received.
Recently, some of the larger art auction houses have initiated online bidding services, which enable bidders to participate in real-time auctions from their laptops. Essentially, the process is no different from bidding on the phone, as the actual sale is still conducted in the auction house’s salesroom. If you choose to bid online at such an auction, you should follow the same procedures outlined in the section What About Auctions?
CAVEAT EMPTOR Investigate carefully before you buy. Since Internet sellers are liable for the authenticity of the works sold and for conveying good title, buyers must ultimately rely on the honesty and knowledge of the individual seller. If in doubt about the authenticity of a work, make payment conditional on getting a certificate from a qualified expert. CINOA affiliated dealer can authenticate works for you or help you locate the appropriate expert.
While it may be fun to take a chance on an inexpensive collectible, it would be reckless to forego normal precautions when buying art on the Web. CINOA affiliated dealer apply the same high standards to Internet sales as to regular gallery sales.
http://goo.gl/WMZ98 Zaidan Gallery