Fine Art America is an internet art marketplace where buyers can shop to purchase low-cost wall art, home décor, and countless other products. With their print-on-demand art brokerage business model, they sell the work of over half a million artists by partnering with sixteen third-party production facilities in five countries to sell it to the public.
If you are interested in learning about what you get through the world's largest art market, you may be in for a big surprise. The choice is yours to decide if buying art through Fine Art America is right for you.
How Does Fine Art America Work?
Virtually any artist can create a free account with Fine Art America, then upload photos of their photography, paintings, or illustrations to the companies website. They can choose the items on which they wish to print their work, like wall art prints, T-shirts, and yoga mats, along with how much profit they wish to receive from each item if they make a sale.
When a customer orders a product, Fine Art America fulfills the orders from production to shipping, pays the artist and the production facility, and the rest they keep as profit.
Sadly, many talented artists lack either the capital or business skills to sell their work with personal websites, so they turn to companies like Fine Art America who make attractive proposals, suggesting easy sales and expansion of their careers with newfound exposure on the internet.
The majority of artists soon discover that these promises often ring hollow. With hundreds of thousands of creators to compete with, standing out to buyers is extremely difficult. If the artist sets their prices too high, the bargain-hunting customer just move on to the next item.
Due to the nature of this business model, overpricing items is a sure path to failure, so most artists set their prices low in order to stay competitive. As a result, if they do manage to sell anything, they are only compensated a pittance for their artwork.
The Undervalued Artist
Although there may be a select few who are making money selling art on Fine Art America, a simple internet search reveals countless discouraging stories from talented artists who say that it is next to impossible to make a living selling their art on the brokerage modelled website.
Fine Art America seems to be the only one that prospers, and with nothing to lose; remember that all of the artwork for sale on their website is given to them for free. This article from five years ago claims that they generate more than 25 million per year in revenue.
And herein lies my problem. By selling art printed on mediocre products, businesses like Fine Art America perpetuate the myth that art has no value. It cheapens the artwork to a level that makes it virtually worthless with no meaning.
'By not valuing artists, we devalue art.' 
The unfortunate truth is that the lopsided beliefs and standards of modern society overwhelmingly undervalue art. Now, more than ever, the world needs creative people who are indifferent to rules and standards being imposed upon them, who do things their own way, offering new ideas as culture and society evolves.
Art helps people with self-expression and the need to communicate, allowing them to pass an idea, story, or concept to an observer who can interpret it in their own way which expands their views and ideas. Art has a strong social value that can help to develop individuals, furthering a greater understanding of themselves and their lives, while increasing empathy with others, and an appreciation of the diversity of human experience and different cultures.
What's In A Name
Although it may be obvious, it is worth pointing out that the name 'Fine Art America' is somewhat misleading in itself. As we mentioned earlier, the practice of printing artwork on low-cost products cannot be considered 'fine art' by any serious definition of the term, as the merchandise is typically fabricated with inexpensive, mass-produced materials with equally substandard visual appeal.
The old adage rings true; you get what you pay for. The ordinary and generic appearance of the products often fail to create any visual impact in your home and quickly become forgettable.
If some of the great artists like Leonardo da Vinci or Claude Monet were alive today, it is doubtful that they would be happy to see their masterworks being printed on cell phone covers and yoga mats.
But part of the biggest reason why these products do not possess any real value, besides their lack of quality, is that buyers have no connection to the artists themselves. With no knowledge of the artist or story behind their art, there is no intrinsic value.
Fine Art Photography And Intrinsic Value
As a fine art landscape photographer, I go to great lengths to capture the beauty of nature at its best, with the goal of creating a superior end product that is a work of art in itself. I have always insisted on having my art printed in the finest gallery quality mediums available, crafted as limited editions and made to last for generations.
These high standards add value to the prints, and anything less is unacceptable to me as an artist. When I started my business, I was unrelenting in my research to find the best fine art master printers that had the expertise and knowledge to craft my art pieces with as much pride in their own work as I had in mine.
I personally assist every buyer of my art, passing on the stories behind my photographs while creating lasting relationships along with the best customer service that I can deliver. This personal connection gives my customers pride in ownership of their prints, with greater enjoyment and the ability to pass on the stories of the images to their families and guests.
While some buyers may choose a photograph because of a cheap price tag, remember that if the art does not speak to you on a deeper level, chances are it has no value and you will tire of it quickly. The 'value' that I am referring to is not the price tag attached to it, but rather the feelings and emotions you experience when viewing an art piece that connects with you.
Each person has a different emotional response, based on what the photograph reminds them of, either consciously, through reminiscence, or simply personal taste. When the art triggers positive emotions, it touches the heart of the person in a way that cannot be measured.
These emotions are the intrinsic value, and are far more important to consider when investing for long term enjoyment of the art, regardless of its dollar value. When the feelings are strong, it is a good indicator that the art is right for you.
The Value Of Customer Service
Today, with all of the available options for buyers to choose from when purchasing art for their homes, exceptional customer service cannot be overstated. It plays a large role in differentiating the experience between buying directly from the artist, as opposed to a large marketplace like Fine Art America.
Unfortunately, we are living in a world where good customer service seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur. We rarely talk to humans anymore on the other end of the phone line, often forced to navigate through menus of pre-recorded messages before being put on hold indefinitely. These are the pitfalls of using the services of large, faceless companies.
Fine Art America is not immune to the problem, and has a large number of negative reviews and complaints against them related to a variety of issues, including;
- orders lost/undelivered
- poor/inefficient customer service
- overbilling errors
- refunds not issued
- receiving incorrect orders
I take pride in providing customer service at a higher level by giving my customers extra value like Collector Rewards and other free services whenever it is possible. This establishes a high level of trust and confidence in their purchases, as I am proud to illustrate here with some of my customer testimonials.
Knowing The Difference
It is important to understand the differences between photographic prints or other artwork depending on where you acquire them. Customers always have a far more satisfying experience when they are able to connect with the artist on a personal level and purchase directly through the artists own website, physical gallery, or art show.
It is always wise to invest in art that is crafted with quality, so it will stand the test of time. Quality prints are made with intention and can be artworks in themselves, providing an extraordinary viewing experience compared to a poorly made print.
When choosing art, pay attention to the positive emotions that speak to you on a deeper level, rather than the price tag, which will ensure enjoyment of the print for the long term. If you embrace this philosophy, it becomes irrelevant if the artist is famous or not.
And finally, if it is within your means, purchase artwork directly from the artist. The experience, the art, and the friendship are sure to last a lifetime.
Dean McLeod Photography Timeless Fine Art stands independently and declares no affiliation, sponsorship or partnership with any registered trademarks. Any product names, logos, brands or other trademarks featured or referred to within the Dean McLeod Photography website and associated social media forums are the property of their respective trademark holders. These trademark holders do not sponsor or endorse Dean McLeod Photography or any of its products or comments.
1. Morgan Nitz, Roberta Fallon. "How do we value art?" Artblog, supported by The Philadelphia Cultural Fund. October 23, 2020.