In 1973 advertising executive Charles Saatchi bought his first painting. It was a realist work that depicted suburban houses. He’s since been called the world’s most voracious collector of contemporary art. In 1985, he opened his own gallery, The Saatchi Gallery. In 2006, the gallery launched an interactive website, Saatchi-gallery.co.uk. The goal of site is to provide artists with a free, global forum to show their work and its traffic ranks it as the 329th most popular in the world, according to Alexa.com. The site is run as a nonprofit and sells a large amount of art.
Annabel Fallon is a press officer with The Saatchi Gallery.
PeC: How long has The Saatchi Gallery been online?
FALLON: The Saatchi Gallery has had its own website featuring highlights from the collection and information on the gallery but Saatchi Online, our interactive site, which provides a free platform for any artist from anywhere in the world to show their work to a global audience, was first launched in May of 2006.
PeC: Why did The Saatchi Gallery launch a website?
FALLON: The website was created by Mr. Saatchi and The Saatchi Gallery team after the gallery in County Hall was closed. It was created while he was waiting for the new Saatchi Gallery to open (the new gallery will open in late spring this year). The whole ethos behind the site is that while the 1,000 or so most successful artists are well catered for by the auction houses and commercial galleries, artists below that level are largely unrepresented and not shown. The aim has been to create a site that serves as a platform for all artists, including the lesser known artists and students. The site serves as not only a global community for those who are making art or those that are interested in art, but also a key art reference and meeting point across the world.
PeC: How many people are involved in maintaining the site?
FALLON: We have a team of between 10 to 15 people working on the site on a regular basis.
PeC: The site is heralded as the world’s first interactive art gallery. How does the site work?
FALLON: As the site is fully interactive it is designed so that all transactions and contact between visitors and artists on the site are done directly without any involvement from The Saatchi Gallery. The gallery does not charge any commission on any sales made on the site, so neither the artist nor buyer are having to pay the usual 50 percent commission that art dealers charge.
PeC: How many different artists are represented on the site and how many individual pieces are for sale?
FALLON: There are more than 80,000 artists on the site, all with their own profile pages where they can upload multiple images of their work, and people can contact the artist directly through email. We also have a section called Saleroom where artists are free to upload images of their work complete with title, dimensions medium and price, and visitors can buy directly from the site using an online secure payment system. Currently, there are more than 55,000 works on sale in Saleroom. At the end of 2007, it was estimated that the 70,000 registered artists had sold more than $100 million worth of art using the site in just a year.
PeC: The site ranks extremely high among the world’s top sites. What do you attribute that success to?
FALLON: We have been delighted with the way the site has grown and attribute much of the traffic and high number of artists on the site to word-of-mouth. The site is very unique in what it seeks to do and is also nonprofit with no advertising on the site or commission charged on sales. Like all interactive sites it is word-of-mouth that creates high numbers of traffic as more and more people are enjoying visiting the site as an online community for all those interested in art.
PeC: How is the site marketed?
FALLON: The site is not marketed in any specific way. The in-house press team has worked to communicate the aims and goals for the site. We have also worked with a number of organizations, such as art fairs, galleries and television channels to create competitions and exhibitions based on the work of artists on the site.
PeC: Saatchi Online offers many opportunities for artists, and people in general, to network with other artists or people who are interested in art. How long has this been a feature of the website and what led to these features being included?
FALLON: The aim of the site is to provide greater access and visibility for contemporary art to as large an audience as possible. By creating interactive facilities, this allows artists and people who are interested in art to communicate with each other.
Provides a method for artists worldwide to sell their work, even though the site itself doesn’t collect money on the sales.
Size: $100 million, approximate value of art sold in 2007
Number of employees: 10 to 15
Biggest Obstacle: “Making sure that people understand that the site is very democratic, open to all and that it is a non-profit site where we don’t charge artists a fee.”