On Gatekeepers

Gate­keep­ers such as gal­ler­ies con­trolled access to tra­di­tion­al art mar­kets. Only those artists who seemed fit for sale have had the oppor­tun­ity to make a liv­ing from their art. Today, on new plat­forms such as NFT mar­ket­places, any­one with an Inter­net con­nec­tion has the oppor­tun­ity to offer works of art to a glob­al audi­ence. The role of gate­keep­er seems to have disappeared.

Truth is that in the former times, once you have crossed the threshold you only used to com­pete with a lim­ited num­ber of peers. Nowadays without any threshold, it means that you com­pete with a seem­ingly end­less num­ber of oth­er artists of dif­fer­ent levels of skills. Or in oth­er words: you are amidst the long tail of digit­al art pro­duc­tion. In order to stand out from that crowd you have to struggle for atten­tion. If you want to focus on your art pro­duc­tion rather than organ­iz­ing a com­munity on social media that sup­ports you, you are look­ing for a part­ner who can help you attract poten­tial collectors. 

On closer inspec­tion, that exactly has always been the role of the gal­lery: Organ­iz­ing open­ing events, send­ing out inform­a­tion and weav­ing net­works between artists and col­lect­ors. For doing that job, gal­ler­ies have with­held a large part of the rev­en­ue. Today, the role of gal­ler­ists can stay the same, but the skill set and job descrip­tion must have changed: today they need to oper­ate in a digit­al envir­on­ment. And they have to meas­ure them­selves against many oth­er play­ers in that field that have no back­ground as a gal­lery at all, but are able to gain many fol­low­ers and high­light cer­tain artists and col­lec­tions in the market.

In short: Gate­keep­ers no longer con­trol access, but attention.