Friday, June 16, 2006

Online Inuit Art Gallery Called Unfair Competition

Recently, I made an application to exhibit at the Toronto International Art Fair in order to help expose Inuit art to a broader fine art audience. I already knew that a well known Inuit gallery (Feheley's Fine Arts) in Toronto had already exhibited at this fair for the last few years so there is some potential for Inuit art at such events. I was informed last week that the selection committee for the fair had rejected our application for a booth. The selection committee is comprised mainly of owners of traditional street galleries. The organizer of the fair told me this week that the rejection was based on Free Spirit Gallery's exclusively online status and we were considered unfair competition by street retail galleries. He also told me that as long as my gallery remains an internet only business, there's no point in applying to any of the art fairs in the future as the selection committees will all have the same type of animosity towards online galleries.

I don't know if Feheley had anything to do with the Toronto rejection since she is a part of the gallery association but I've run into bad reception before when I walked into an Inuit art gallery in Basel, Switzerland. The owner there claimed that I was destroying the market with my lower prices and that online businesses should just disappear.

I don't know what the street galleries really expect us online gallery owners to do but I cannot justify raising my prices just to bring them up to the street gallery level. Why should I? I don't have the same type of overhead and my customers are happy with my prices as well as service. Why raise prices just to please the street galleries?

Like all types of businesses, things can change over time and the street galleries will just have to find a smarter way to do business. Online businesses are here to stay whether they like it or not. If online galleries are to be snubbed by all the art fairs, we will find other ways to get our artwork in front of people.

If customers want to see and touch artwork before purchasing, that's fine as long as they are willing to pay street gallery prices. If they are willing to purchase without the see and touch in order to pay online prices, that's fine too. Consumers should have choices on where and how they want to shop. We simply offer an alternative. This "us versus them" attitude that some (but perhaps not all) street galleries have is just plain immature.

For Inuit art with an online gallery with great prices and service, see Free Spirit Gallery.

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