April 1, 2014

Trolling Amazon Art

Five Stars.

While browsing through online art platforms for a work project, I finally took a look at Amazon’s widely-discussed and often-mocked foray into the online art market, Amazon Art. The concept had been swirling around ever since the early noughties, when Sotheby’s attempted partnerships with Amazon (1999) as well as eBay (2002), but it took more than ten years for Amazon to finally go it alone. What follows is a playful look into Amazon Art.

As a person with a background in design and marketing, I should have found the design (or lack thereof) most interesting. I did not. The design is boring. Who wants to buy art off the standard Amazon site? That’s right, no one. Olav Velthuis would agree that this ubiquitous online marketplace is not a place for art. I use Amazon to buy used books (like Velthuis’) and shampoo that I don’t want to walk to the store to buy. Thanks, Amazon Prime, for making my dreams come true.

The truth is that the “reviews” of the highest priced artworks on Amazon Art are the main reason to visit Amazon Art.

If the prospect of free shipping—you don’t even need a Prime account!—wasn’t enough to entice you into purchasing that Warhol you’ve been eyeing (I’m looking at you, Mao), take a look at the “reviews.” (I will continue to put “reviews” into quotes.) I am not going to question if Amazon Art will work—we’ll just say that a company as large as Amazon can afford a pet project once in a while. Selling art online is and will continue to happen. The prospect of making art easier to look at and buy is great! I just think that Amazon should have considered user experience when it launched Amazon Art. There are already several platforms that sell blue chip, mid range, and emerging art but they look and function very differently from Amazon. (Slowly backing off my soap box…)

Onto the “reviews” (divided by relevant art expertise and trolling ability, from novice to expert)—

1. The Amateur Critic with Glowing Reviews

Courtesy M.S. Rau Antiques

The Work:  John Atkinson GrimshawThe Dockside Liverpool at Night, 1886
USD $495,000 + Free Shipping (View on Amazon Art)

Screenshot 2014-04-02 00.00.44

I actually kind of like this painting, but the “review” inspires a Southern “bless your heart” category of sentiment.


2. Basic “My Kid Could’ve Painted That” Trolls


The Work: Yoshitomo NaraUntitled, 1993
USD $33,250 + Free Shipping (View on Amazon Art

Screenshot 2014-04-01 23.04.48

Yawn. No one’s making you buy anything. Please leave and go back to Reddit.


3. Creepy “Uncle Who Thinks He’s Funny” Trolls


The Work: Andy WarholBe a somebody with a body, 1986
USD $155,000 + Free Shipping (View on Amazon Art)  

Screenshot 2014-04-01 23.05.19

Was this review helpful to you? No. And no amount of creepy hugs will change that.


4. Clever “Art Wizard Level” Trolls


The Work:  Andy WarholMao 93 & 98, 1972
USD $200,000 + Free Shipping (View on Amazon Art and here)  

Screenshot 2014-04-01 23.35.21



Screenshot 2014-04-01 23.04.22

Beware paintings priced under $10,000; the reviews have to be fake—they’re too enthusiastic and clearly the gallerinas are (un)paid to post them…  Now onto the pièce de résistance:


Courtesy Lawrence Cantor Fine Art

The Work: Pierre Auguste RenoirLe portrait d’une jeune femme, 1870
USD $800,000 + Free Shipping (View on Amazon Art)   

Screenshot 2014-04-01 23.44.29

Screenshot 2014-04-01 23.44.40

Amazon, let’s just turn Amazon Art into a personalized dating service. Hello, Trenton.