Iâ€™ve chatted through email several times this past week with a man who heard about Ugallery from the Wall Street Journal. In giving me his thoughts about the art world and the role of the Internet, he wrote that, â€œeBay is hated by The Art Establishment.â€ Although I donâ€™t really know enough about this guyâ€™s qualifications to say that his is an expert opinion, it is certainly not the first time I have heard this sentiment. There are tons of blogs and stories on the web about the risks of buying art on eBay. My favorite that I have come across, and from a credible source, is the very satirical â€œMake Big Money Selling Fake Art on eBayâ€
by art consultant Alan Bamberger. And beyond this there are numerous news stories about people getting cheated.
Itâ€™s really too bad that eBay doesnâ€™t do a better job of policing its site because it could be a great place for artists and dealers to meet lots of interested buyers. The concept works great for unlimited and inexpensive goods, but when it comes to limited edition and one-of-a-kind luxury items, one should steer clear. And itâ€™s not just the art establishment that dislikes eBay, itâ€™s handbag and clothing designers and watchmakers and perfumeries and on and on. Several weeks ago, I read that Germanyâ€™s highest court ruled
that eBay must do more to halt the sale of counterfeit goods after losing a six-year dispute with Rolex.
The art world and the rest have good reason to hate this company. Instead of working to fix the problem, eBay claims that it is the responsibility of those who sell and shop on the site to find the crooks. Thatâ€™s ridiculous. Whatâ€™s the point of paying transaction fees to eBay if they arenâ€™t working to improve the experience? As a result of this stance, most of the credible art sellers have left the site, leaving a void filled with thieves peddling â€œauthenticâ€ Picasso lithographs and Dali etchings.
There is another online auctioneer for very high-end luxury goods, Portero.com, which takes possession of everything on the site and guarantees that it is authentic. So it seems that if you want to bid on a real Picasso or Dali, this is the place to go. Unfortunately, this only serves a small group of people. eBayâ€™s short sidedness has closed the door on the large group of everyday people looking to find a great piece of art at an affordable price. And on all of the legitimate emerging artists trying to use the site to get their work out there.