The Glossary of Online Art Terms


AUG 13TH, 2017

“For those who say the online art market has had its day—it hasn’t even had its morning yet, it’s still waking up,” says Robert Read, Head of Art and Private Clients at Hiscox.

In 2016, online art sales grew 4% despite an overall decline in the global art market. As more and more galleries develop online marketing and sales strategies, a new vocabulary is emerging among buyers and sellers. Here are ten online art terms to know as your gallery gets started:

The Glossary of Online Art Terms

(c) Jenny Holzer / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy of Cheim & Read.

Online Art Market

The online art market includes all art objects available to buy and sell online, whether from galleries, auction houses, e-commerce companies, or online art platforms.

Why It Matters: Today, the online art market accounts for 8.4% of the overall art market, which reached a total of 56.6 billion dollars in sales in 2016. One of the biggest advantages of the online art market is its ability to reach a vast number of collectors and connect them with galleries and auction houses across the globe. Since its emergence, the online art market has dramatically expanded the overall art market, increasing opportunities for selling and collecting art.


A gallery with both a physical location and an online presence.

Why It Matters: Per the 2017 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, “65% of buyers bought more than one piece of art online in the past 12 months, up 2% year-on-year.” Accordingly, as more collectors come online, brick-and-click galleries are positioned to take advantage of the opportunity to form new relationships that have the potential to convert to sales. Physical and digital storefronts also complement each other: having both allows collectors to discover works online and then view them in person before finalizing a purchase.

Online Art Platform

Online art platforms connect buyers and sellers around the world, enabling galleries, dealers, and auction houses to list their inventory online and connect with interested collectors.

Why It Matters: Today, more and more collectors are turning to online platforms such as Artsy to engage with, discover, and collect art. Notably, as per Hiscox, the number of sales made by galleries through online art platforms is dramatically increasing. In 2013, just 15% of galleries claimed they would partner with an online art platform. However in 2017, almost half of galleries that sell art online do so through a partnership with an online art platform.

Online Buyer

A collector or prospective buyer who purchases art online, either through a third party platform like Artsy or directly from a gallery or auction house’s website.

Why It Matters: As a younger generation of art collectors emerges, the number of online art buyers is rapidly increasing as collectors become more and more comfortable buying works unseen. According to the 2017 Art Basel x UBS Art Market Report, in 2016 “over half (56%) of sales generated were made to new clients that had never been to their gallery or met them in person.”


SaaS stands for Software as a Service. Artsy’s SaaS products, the Content Management System (CMS) and Folio, function as a comprehensive suite of digital tools that increase access to your gallery’s online platform.

Why It Matters: A popular service in the tech industry, SaaS applications provide software that runs on a centralized server accessible via the internet. Customizable and secure, this software provides infrastructure to support business operations. For example, CMS enables you to catalog and upload your inventory online and share it with Artsy users and collectors, while Folio syncs with CMS to create albums and curate shows from your collection and share them with users. Easy to use and efficient, these tools enable you to spend more time engaging with artists and collectors.


Click-and-Buy refers to a method that allows collectors to buy art directly through a website. On a third-party platform like Artsy, users can “click-and-buy” by pressing a single button from an artwork page that then sends a message to the gallery through CMS. In discussing the success of galleries online, Hiscox talks about the difference between click-and-buy and pay-per-click which, alternatively, involves rerouting collectors interested in a work to auction houses and galleries.

Why It Matters: When talking about click-and-buy versus pay-per-click, it’s important to point out that click-and-buy does not necessarily mean e-commerce in the sense that it removes any relationship between the user and the gallery or auction house. Artsy is committed to helping galleries and auction houses cultivate relationships with collectors, while making it more efficient for users to discover works they’re interested in. Click-and-buy offers benefits for both the user and the seller, as it increases the likelihood that the user will purchase the work while ensuring that the gallery or auction house can still connect with the client.


Metadata is data that describes other data. In the context of the artworld, Metadata is information about artworks, artists, designers, and architects that serves to identify and classify them. For example, artwork dimensions, exhibition history, and an artist’s birthday all fall under the category of metadata.

Why It Matters: Thanks to the Art Genome Project and galleries who upload artworks to make their listings discoverable for collectors, you can find metadata for many artists featured on Artsy listed on their artist pages. When researching a prospective work, collectors often like to know as much information as possible about the history of the artist and the piece. Providing this information helps collectors to contextualize and better connect with the piece they’re interested in, increasing the likelihood of adding it to their collection. In fact, according to the 2017 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, “52% of online art buyers state that content is important to their platform choice, an increase from 42% in 2016.”

Online Sale

An online sale is “a sale where any part of the art sales process has an online element” (TEFAF Art Market Report: Online Focus). Similar to the means by which we assess Art Fair sales, if the user discovers an art work on an online platform like Artsy and then purchases the work offline with the gallery, the sale is still considered an ‘online sale’ because the online platform facilitates the initial connection between user and gallery.

Why It Matters: According to Hiscox, “the number of online art buyers that have bought more than a single artwork in the last 12 months has increased to 65% in 2017, up from 63% in 2016.” Additionally, “50% said they would be buying more art and collectibles online in the next year, up from 48% in 2016.” Positioning your gallery in the online market introduces you to new collectors, increasing both your gallery’s reach and positioning you to take advantage of online sales.


SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or page in organic search results. SEO includes anything you can do to get your website content to show up higher, and more frequently, on search engines like Google.

Why It Matters: Understanding SEO and its most impactful factors can help your gallery become more visible on search engines. This leads to higher engagement from collectors interested in content related to your gallery’s listings, and in turn, the opportunity to make more sales. For more information, explore The Gallery's Guide to SEO.

Artsy Confirmed Buyer

Once a sale on Artsy has been verified by the gallery or collector, the user receives Artsy Confirmed Buyer (ACB) status. Identifying ACBs increases the quality of your gallery’s experience on Artsy and is a reciprocal process for all partners, ensuring that all future galleries—including you—can proceed confidently when they receive a new inquiry.

Why It Matters: Of the new ACBs in 2016, 25% bought more than one work in the same 12 month period. Artsy Confirmed Buyers help to establish trust with the user, help you proceed with confidence, and make sales easy.


Whether you’re just starting to grow your online presence or have a well-established digital strategy, these ten terms can provide guidance for navigating the online art market. As the leading online art platform for galleries, Artsy can connect you to a global audience of art lovers and collectors invested in supporting artists and nurturing their collections.

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