The birth of the Internet was a revolution not only in communications and information flow; the revolutionary technical capabilities of the Internet meant also the beginning of electronic trade open to entrepreneurs from all over the world. Via various Internet auction sites, the contemporary art sellers and buyers have almost unlimited access to auction quotations and economic analyses concerning trade in works of art. Through e-shops, e-galleries, e-antiquity shops and e-auction houses the web users can also buy, sell, pawn and lease works of art. Noticing the growing popularity of e-commerce, traditional auction houses, including such universal potentates as Christie's and Sotheby's, have established their own Internet auction sites and began to organise e-auctions of works of art. It turned out relatively soon, however, that the clientele of auction houses was none too willing to purchase their works of art online. On the other hand, interest grew in online trade in inexpensive artistic objects, mostly works of decorative art and graphic art. In the recent period the art market in Poland underwent significant transformations. As a result of changes in the economic system, by the late 1980's and early 1990's the state agency of art trade (DESA) lost its monopoly. Private antiquarian companies sprang up very fast; some of them began trading in entire Poland. Those companies, which are in fierce competition, keep searching for new ways of development and new methods of promoting their merchandise. The Internet is used increasingly frequently as important advertising space and source of commercial information; some Polish auction houses, galleries and antiquity shops also trade in works of art via the Internet. Among Polish traditional auction houses, Agra-Art S.A. is the pioneer of Internet auctions: in 2005 the web-based transactions constituted ca. 10% of its turnover. Nevertheless, the prices of objects sold in this manner rarely exceeded a few thousand Polish zlotys. The Internet and new information and communication technologies are today an important element of art market. Nevertheless, the assumption that in the future e-commerce would replace the traditional forms of trade in works of art seems to be unfounded. Despite the increasing quality of computer software, and consequently the improvement of image transmission, buying works of art (especially highly valuable works of antique art) entirely on-line still carries serious risk of becoming a victim of fraudulent practices or of a simple mistake. Also of import is the fact that connoisseurship and passion for collecting works of art to a large extent stem from fascination with the actual work of art and pleasure derived from the direct contact with it; this cannot be replaced by even the most expertly made image.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.