Influence of the Digitalization on the Primary Art Market with a Focus on Art Galleries

Caroline Marlene Hegner

Student thesis: Master thesis


Digitalization influences all parts of the economy as well as society. While the effects of digitalization have already drastically disrupted certain economic sectors, so far, the art market appears not to have experienced a comparable transformation. Due to existing limited research about this phenomenon within the art sector, this Master Thesis examines whether the increasing emergence of digitalization is also leading to a disruption of the primary art market. In particular, it analyzes how the business models of art galleries are affected by an accelerating digitalization. For that analysis, the theory of Christensen (2015) regarding the innovators' dilemma and the related term “disruptive innovation” as well as further research by Christensen serves as a basis. Moreover, the paper aims to outline the most important aspects of an ideal business model for art galleries in the context of digitalization. This business model is also classified in a corresponding business model canvas according to Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010). In order to achieve this, primary data was collected from semi-structured expert interviews with five gallery executives. The analysis reveals that all of the interviewed art galleries operate online channels and hence already have a presence in the digital space. Most galleries emphasized that the primary art market is disrupted by digitalization and accordingly see the need to adapt their business model. Such galleries already use digital media on a large scale for advertising and communication with market participants and clients. In addition, they pursue online distribution channels or are open to such initiatives in the future and are particularly interested in reaching a new customer segment digitally. Therefore, these galleries are considering or planning launches of editions at lower price points, especially suitable for online distribution. The main findings are presented in the business model canvas for art galleries, which constitutes a framework for galleries in the primary art market to adapt their business to the changing environment.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages108
SupervisorsKarin Hoisl