Blog   Tagged ‘provenance’

Is Amazon the new Christie’s?

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Would you like to add a Norman Rockwell original to your shopping basket? Well, now you can.

Amazon recently launched a new platform where you can purchase fine art just like you would buy toys, books or laundry detergent on their site. On Amazon Art, you can choose from a wide array of options in price, artists and quality.

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Buying art online



Research on internet art purchasing shows that online sales tend to be in the $5,000 and under price range and are usually the works of living artists with or without a significant resume. Online buyers also tend to view their pieces as more decorative versus a long-term investment.




There are both benefits and drawbacks to buying fine art online. If you’re thinking about purchasing a piece of art from an online source, consider these benefits:

  • Easy access to more artists: The online option increased the market for sellers by providing an inexpensive, easily-accessible platform and fronting with a brand name.
  • Pick your price point: Sites now offer options that range from $20 to $4 million, so there is something for everyone. With a broader selection of pieces, you will be able to stick to a price point that fits your budget.
  • Customized shopping: Some sites are very user-friendly and give you the option to shop by color, price, size, etc. These sites will only continue to evolve, which will force all players to keep improving their online customer experience to be competitive.

On the flip side, there could be some risk to buying art online:

  • Value risk: Basically, are you getting what you paid for? This is something to think about because there may not be an opportunity to verify authenticity or provenance (or origin) before buying a piece.
  • Transactional risk: Depending on the online seller or site, there may not be a guarantee to return a piece you purchase if you learn it’s not authentic, is misrepresented, etc.
  • Lack of References: Check references before buying a significant piece. Call the gallery directly or arrange to view the piece on site.  While we encourage this practice, you may or may not have this option depending on the online seller.
  • Hidden Costs: You may also encounter added expenses, such as shipping, handling, administrative fees or insurance.

When you look for your next piece of art, keep your options open and these tips in mind. If you are thinking about buying a significant piece, you may find traditional shopping methods are best.  But if you’re interested in looking online, there are many options to choose from ­– just remember to proceed with caution.


When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.

Jan Leonard is senior vice president and managing director for charitable trusts, private foundations and fine art services. She joined UMB in 2003 and has more than 25 years of experience in the management of private and public organizations. Leonard earned a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech University and a master’s degree in business administration from Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kan. She is also a graduate of the Cannon School of Foundation Management.

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