'My dream is a world full of wealthy artists'

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Buying a piece of art has long been considered an investment, of time as well as money, requiring visits to galleries and trips to auction houses.

But technology is changing the way we interact with, buy, and sell art. And artists are adapting their creative processes to suit a changing landscape.

"There's never been a better time to be an artist in the world," says Ashley Longshore.

The US artist's paintings can be found hanging in the homes of Hollywood celebrities such as Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz and Blake Lively.

"Art school teaches you that galleries are where you have to be. Galleries told me that I would never make it so I started to think; how could I build my own empire?" she says.

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Ashley started using social media - Facebook, Instagram and others - to showcase her art and attract new buyers. Selling direct cuts out the middleman and puts artists back in control, she says.

"When you buy through a gallery you're investing 50% in the middle man - it screws up the pricing of art. I want artists to see themselves as entrepreneurs - 'artpreneurs' - who have control over what they're putting out," she says.

It's a strategy that has worked well. She has sold multiple works online, including one for $50,000 (£35,000). Paying subscribers get access to limited-edition works as well.

Online art sales are growing worldwide. Online sales reached an estimated $3.75bn in 2016, up 15% from 2015. This represents an 8.4% share of the overall art market, up from 7.4% the year before, according to the 2017 report on the online art market from insurers Hiscox.

In contrast, global auction sales fell 19% over the same period.

Iain Barratt, owner of the Catto Gallery in London, recognises that an online presence is important, but is sceptical that social media is the answer to increased sales.

"A lot of social media is just noise. Our artists are on Instagram but they're followed by other artists most of the time, not clients," he says.

"We've had a few indirect sales on social media, but nothing to speak of really."

His gallery typically sells works for £5,000-20,000, and Mr Barratt believes that the more expensive the painting the more reluctant customers are to buy online.

"Above a certain price people want to come in and see the art. On a computer, it just doesn't come across the same way. You want to find out more about it," he says.

"Seeing apiece of art in the flesh - nothing quite beats it."

For the auction house Christie's, which was founded 250 years ago, embracing new technology has been an interesting journey.

"We test and learn with online all the time," says chief marketing officer Marc Sands.

"At the beginning we thought no-one would spend a lot online. Five years ago the average sale online was $2,300, now it's just under $8,000."

In 2017, a third of Christie's new buyers came via the web and online sales totalled £56m, up 12% on the year before.

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