"Years ago, I would often paint portraits of children at the railway station," Gujarat-based artist Rakesh Patel said, mulling over the past and how it led to his success in the field of contemporary art."If it was not for the online medium, I could never imagine a day when my art would be sold in London," said the artist, who is well known for his portraits and for effectively capturing human emotions.Selling his art online for over 10 years now, Patel said that despite being virtual, the medium has been a boon for many beginners in the art field. "Beginners find it very difficult to exhibit their works at a gallery - not many manage to gather the required resources . But the online galleries are such a huge platform that even accomplished artists prefer to sell their works through them," Patel told IANS.Saffronart is one such major player."Saffronart, a big player in the Indian online art market, has been in the field for over 15 years," its co-founder, Dinesh Vazirani, told IANS, adding: "People are now very comfortable buying online. That has helped us sell over 20,000 artworks to over 8,000 customers since our inception."
The company's artworks range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over $2.5 million dollars."The global online art market is worth over $2.4 billion (more than Rs.15,000 crore). Indian art needs much more representation on this vast digital platform - which is only picking up gradually," said Kiran Wood, who with her husband Tim Wood left London for Delhi to start fullpictureart.com which sells contemporary Indian art ranging from $150-$10,000 for buyers all over the world.The Indian art world has woken up to the online market, Wood opined, adding: "Online presence of art can only complement what is being sold at the galleries and can never completely replace it."Wood said the current trend of selling art online would have not been possible 10 years ago, when consumers were not confident enough to buy anything through a virtual medium.For Riyas Komu, a sculptor and painter from Kerala known for his politically-driven work, selling art online is a "part of the phenomenon to sell anything and everything online." He said, "Through awareness, people have evolved to recognize art through any medium."
Komu, who has sold his art globally through online auctions, said, "The online platforms help in growing a larger audience. They democratize the model of art sales by helping it open up to everyone."The online medium has always had its share of skeptics and Bose Krishnamachari, an internationally acclaimed painter and curator and a founder member of the Kochi Biennale, counts himself among them."As a collector I would never buy art without researching on it and seeing it. I believe most of the times, it is only the mediocre art which is sold online," Krishnamachari told IANS."The online medium can be used to spread the word about art but I don't think the digital space can ever match up to the exhibition space," Krishnamachari added."Despite the risks and downsides of the medium, it is helping more people engage into art," explained Wood, who expected the trend to be taken further by technology in the future.