www.myartspace.com is a networking site for artists, gallerists, art collectors and others involved with visual art. The eCommerce platform for myartspace.com is the New York Art Exchange (NYAXE), www.nyaxe.com. The two sites were founded by Catherine McCormack-Skiba and Brian Skiba. The founders will soon open a brick & mortar gallery in Palo Alto, California. The gallery will feature artists from the myartspace.com community.Winter Field 1 by Lois Foley. www.nyaxe.com/lois.foley
Brian Sherwin: Christian, you are an avid art collector with an interest in www.myartspace.com. Can you discuss what attracted you to the myartspace community and to viewing art online in general?
Christian M Benedetto Jr.: It is very practical and time saving to be able to view art online. Online I can comparison shop between emerging artists with ease. It is also a great way to save time. For example, my wife Suzy and I had a son last spring, so time has really become an issue. Going to brick & mortar galleries is a little tougher with a stroller.
I look at a few hundred pieces of art per month online. I would not be able to achieve that if I had to physically visit galleries. The other great thing about looking at art online is that it allows the viewer to click over to Google and find out more about the artist. It is relatively easy to discover where an artist has exhibited and what they have accomplished by searching for them online.
Strangers, Friends, & Lovers by Ariane Bartosh. www.nyaxe.com/arianebartosh
BS: Do you mind giving our readers some insight into your personal collection? How many works of art do you own? Are there any specific pieces that stand out in your opinion?
CB: I have a few pieces that I really, really enjoy. I was very lucky to come across Shawn Barber in 1997 when he was still an undergraduate student at Ringling School of Art and Design. I bought a piece called “Coltrane in Blue” which won Best in Show for the school’s senior class art show. It was the first piece he ever sold.
Shawn went on to become the Illustrator of the Year for MTV in 2001, has done the US and Germany Grammy’s, countless works in Magazines and has a few books out and is a regular on TV. His shows always sell out in a day or two. I have been offered about 100 times the price I paid for the piece. I have about a dozen other pieces of his works and still stay in touch with him.
Then there is a painting which I bought through Myartspace.com by Charlie Spears called Topsy Turvey for my son, Christian III, before he was born. The painting hangs in his room and he looks at it all the time, smiles, and every time he does, it melts Suzy’s and my heart, so it is very special. I also have a very large Daniel Ferriss pencil drawing from the 1920s of a twenty-one story building I owned. It was given to me by the late Leona Helmsley. We sold the building years later, but I still have the drawing – the detail is unreal.
The Hopkins Sampson & Brown Equities, LLC collection is believed to be one of the largest, if not the largest, privately held art collections in New Jersey. We have never sold a piece; we have donated a few and have even taken pieces right off the wall to give to friends, clients and visitors who remarked about a piece. Our goal is to have 10,000 paintings over the next twenty five years.
Wedding Table by Alex Golden. www.nyaxe.com/alex.golden
BS: My understanding is that you purchase art online as well as in the Traditional method of visiting brick & mortar galleries. Traditionalists of the art market will often mention that viewing art online will never replace viewing art in person-- which suggests that viewing and buying art online is inferior to the traditional model of art business. What is your stance on this issue?
CB: I say to them, go to a high end Auction house for a live auction and see how many bidders are bidding via the Phone and have never seen the piece up close and personal or who sent representative to bid for them. The quality of digital photos, slides, and other media have improved greatly in the last few years.
Sometimes a collector can actually inspect a piece better using these methods than he or she could accomplish viewing a work of art on hanging on the wall at a brick & mortar gallery. Best of all the art can be viewed with your schedule in mind instead of the galleries schedule.
Pollen by Kalliope Amorphous. www.nyaxe.com/kalliope
BS: So do you tend to buy from artists that you are aware of when buying art online? Or do you also buy from emerging artists who are unknown to you? Is it a mix?
CB: I would say emerging artists who are unknown to me, as well as Journeymen artist who are also unknown to me. People recommend artist to me all the time and I am involved fairly heavily in the New Jersey Art Scene.
BS: You have mentioned that you have bought art off of artists that you have met on myartspace. Can you tell us more about that?
CB: On myartspace I have purchased art from Charlie Spears and Adrienne Outlaw. Both are wonderful artists who stayed in touch with us. They have kept in contact by sending notes, e-mails and cards. Adrienne even sent our son a teddy bear when he was born. Charlie checks in with me and gives me advice about being a dad and such. I share a lot of the poems I write for my son and wife with him. I have purchased other works off of the site by artists I had in my collection earlier.
Summer's End by Lee Ables. www.nyaxe.com/leeables
BS: As an avid collector of art I assume that you have many associates who also collect art. What sort of feedback have you obtained from fellow art collectors concerning www.myartspace.com?
CB: Its all been very positive, the site allows artists to price their works much more competitively and still make more money, as they are not paying 35-50% to the gallery, so you can really find some fantastic art at all price points. What a great deal of people hate to admit is that Art is a business. I’m happy if I can buy three paintings online for the price I would pay for two at a gallery with the end result of putting more money into the artist’s pocket. It is really a win-win situation for the artist and the buyer.
Galleries can also do well online because every gallery has the same issue-- space. For example, it would not be hard for a gallery to represent 100 artists online and maintain an online store of 800 paintings. So if the gallerist is really in it to help the artist why would he or she not want to have a store on the New York Art Exchange? Maintaining a store on NYAXE is very practical and efficient.
Whitley Heights, LA by Alysia Kaplan. www.nyaxe.com/alysia.kaplan
BS: You are very open about the fact that you are an art collector on Myartspace-- I assume that you receive many inquiries from artists interested in showing you examples of their work. Do you have any advice for artists as far as contacting known collectors online?
CB: I would suggest that they be very exact in their e-mails, letters or calls. There is nothing worse than to be contacted by someone who is not really sure why they are calling or if they are looking for an unrealistic jump in their price point. For example, MFA students looking to sell me pieces for $30,000 when they have never sold a piece for more than $4,000 makes no sense to me. I’m also annoyed by people looking for funding for a project without providing me a written plan. Those are two of my pet peeves.
So here is some advice: Have a plan, be organized and assertive, don’t come off as aggressive. I have had more than a few artists send me paintings for free so they could say they were in our collection and we have ended up buying several pieces from them since. Show me your passion for your craft.
I bought a wonderful piece by Brian Guidry. When it arrived Janet (our registrar) started to unpack it, she called me over saying, “You have to see this!”. I was thinking oh great it was damaged being shipped up from Louisiana. However, when I got into the conference room I found the most amazing hand made carry case/crate. It was custom made with a handle and neatly burned into the wood was the painting name and our name. Brian must have spent 10 hours making it, his passion for his work showed.
The same is true with Sharon Shapiro, she always tells me her paintings are like her children and when she ships her work she goes the extra mile. Let the passion and love of your work carry throughout, Art is a business, treat it like such. I cannot tell you the number of times we get things shipped to us that are packed in a hurry and it shows. If it appears that you do not care about your art a collector may very well lose interest.
I'll Let You Be In My Dreams If I Can Be In Yours by Herbert Murrie. www.nyaxe.com/herbertmurrie
BS: Do you have any suggestions for how artists should present themselves online? For example, do you pay more attention to art community profiles and personal websites that contain detailed information about the artist compared to profiles or personal websites that offer little biographical information? In other words, do you like to know about who you are planning to buy from or does it matter?
CB: If I like something I will know instantly. I do however like to see some biographical information, other shows they have been in, if they have a list of collectors-- it is nice to know who owns some of their works. Sometimes I’ll know one of their old professors or another collector and reach out for them to find out a little bit more. So yes, the more information the better.
Wrinkled 24 by Christina Massey. www.nyaxe.com/cmasseyart
BS: As you know, many art collectors are wary about buying art online. There is always great concern with transaction involving large sums of money. Do you have any advice for art collectors who have yet to take the leap as far as buying art online is concerned?
CB: Anthony Benedetto (no relation, who is better known as Tony Bennett) original works sell for $6000 to $60,000 and as far as I know, he has no gallery you can visit – it’s all done via the internet and phone. However, my advice would be to go slow and take some precautions. If it seems too good to be true it most likely is. For example, I do not think I would buy a Picasso off Ebay for $10,000 it would just seem too cheap.
Faunagraphic Parrots by Fauna Graphic. www.nyaxe.com/faunagraphic
BS: Any predictions on how sites like myartspace will change the direction of the art world-- or at least offer galleries an alternative to the traditional art market? Do you think that the traditional art market will be more apt to mesh with new technology and methods of marketing-- such as eCommerce-- as time goes on?
CB: There are few things that compare in the Art world with walking into your favorite gallery in Rome, Venice, San Francisco or New York (you get the idea) having some refreshments and looking at art while being wooed. But the internet travels at the speed of light, so I can be in Rome, Venice, San Francisco and New York all within the same hour looking at all the artists the gallery has-- not just the one showing that day, plus a wider view of the work.
We all love going into an actual bookstore on a rainy day and getting lost for hours wandering through the aisle and forgetting what we were looking for, but how many times have we left with nothing only to go home and order a few books-- the same products-- on amazon.com because it was cheaper? What I’m saying is that Myartspace.com will not replace galleries. However, it does give us more options and better pricing. People like to save time and money when they shop-- art is no different.
Six Pomegranate Seeds by Jenevieve Hubbard. www.nyaxe.com/jenevievehubbard
BS: In your opinion, why have certain circles of the art world scoffed at the idea of buying and selling art online aside from the reasons I've already mentioned?
CB: I think buying at a gallery, especially a higher end gallery, is a status symbol to some people. It is kind of like buying high end brand name clothes. I am fond of saying “just how cold does your ice need to be” If you want to support the artist, buying online is a fantastic way to get more money in their pocket, while saving yourself some along the way.
Many Galleries are embarrassed selling online and have neglected to develop an Internet strategy and marketing plan. What galleries need to remember is that there is not much difference between myartspace and the New York Art Exchange than an overseas buyer calling in his bids at an auction in NY or London. Many brick & mortar galleries are losing profit because they have failed to adapt to these changes.
Bend #1 by Chadwick Gibson. www.nyaxe.com/chadwickgibson
BS: Finally, are you considering any purchases at this time on the myartspace platform for eCommerce, the New York Art Exchange (NYAXE)?