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Amazon reportedly preparing a return to fine art sales

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Amazon box (STOCK)
Amazon box (STOCK)

According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon has been courting gallery owners and plans to sell high-end artwork as early as this month. While deals have reportedly been made, details on how the website's fine art section looks and operates apparently haven't been fully revealed. Shipping duties are said to fall to the galleries, and Amazon will take a 5 to 20 percent commission off of the total sale price.

Can Amazon make it work this time?

Amazon will also charge art houses a $100 monthly membership fee just to be listed, reports WSJ. However, galleries willing to sign up in time for the new service's debut will have that fee waived through 2015. The date isn't far off, but it suggests that Amazon thinks this art venture will go better than its last: the company left a partnership with Sotheby's — one of the biggest names in fine art sales — back in 2000, after giving it a try for 16 months and failing to have sales take off.

No major online retailer has been able to pull it off just yet. WSJ points out that both Yahoo and eBay have tried fine art sales in the past as well, before ultimately abandoning their efforts. It's unclear if this time will be any different for Amazon. According to The Art Newspaper, most gallery owners approached by Amazon simply haven't responded. Much of the issue seems to be a suspicion that Amazon can't offer a tasteful presentation, and that each gallery has a such a limited stock as it is. But while Amazon has no major retailers to take on, it will be entering into a market that a few smaller companies, such as Artsy, have already managed to tap into.