Your text message pings Rebekah Jacob’s mobile device when she’s boarding a flight half a world away. You’re also at an airport, but in another time zone. New work by your favorite artist is at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery (RJG) right now. It’s alive with colors and textures, and the subject perfectly complements your collection.
What to do? Art is an investment. One wants to choose wisely and not miss an opportunity. But dealer and collector are thousands of miles apart.
In days gone by, you’d check your schedule, book a flight and find a few hours to visit the gallery in Charleston. With luck, that perfect addition to your collection would still be available.
Today, however, RJG is making it easier than ever for art lovers to follow the artists they know and love, discover new artists and build a collection. The RJG website and associated social media adapt easily for viewing on the go, whether on an iPhone, Android or iPad. And a secure membersonly area for collectors and qualified buyers allows them to transact online—or request the work to be shipped on approval to their home or office.
“I’ve watched galleries that have been around for 40 to 50 years, owned and operated by top-dealers, fail because they couldn’t adapt to tech,” says Jacob. “The reality is that e-commerce is shifting the art market rapidly.”
Energetic and keenly focused, Jacob is an astute scholar of both traditional and emerging ways of doing business. RJG, one of Charleston’s most respected galleries, represents top talent such as Tarleton Blackwell, Sarah Haynes and Charlie Mcalister. It combines a profound respect for the artistic tradition of the American South with innovation and forward thinking.
Mobility and tech are the future, according to Jacob, both online and through appearances at art fairs, which allow galleries to show their work outside of traditional spaces. “I don’t see physical spaces being eliminated, but I do see them shrinking in the future,” she says. “Ninety-five percent of our buyers are second-home owners in Charleston and globe-trotters. We have to be savvy and astute in staying in front of them via Internet and social media.”
Communications associate P.J. Roberson, a graduate of the College of Charleston and Sotheby’s Institute in London, holds degrees in art history and arts management. She has been instrumental in securing RJG’s success in social media. Building platforms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook is an art in and of itself. Each social media site represents its own distinct demographic, and tailoring material for each requires versatility and a sensitive finger on an ever-changing pulse.
Photography and works on paper sell very well online, RJG has found, especially works under $5,000, which appeal to younger collectors who are very comfortable navigating the Internet, interacting with social media and transacting online.
Once a month, a Web-based exhibit, appropriately titled Off the Wall, features works of special interest to these collectors. Art consultant and marketing director Grace Chapin, whose stellar resume includes experience with the Impressionist & Modern Art department of Sotheby’s International Auction House in London and the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington, D.C., browses the bins for art that will satisfy both the price point and aesthetic taste of this young, hip, Internet-friendly audience. Works selected are discounted 15 percent while the exhibit runs.
“We spend a lot of time strategizing, creating and constantly modifying the RJG website so that art lovers can peruse it quickly and efficiently, then email or call with a list of artworks of interest,” Jacob says. “When the client calls or walks in the door, we are prepared with precise inventory, data, market comps and general information they can review and distill before purchasing. There will always be a need for physical interaction to connect fine art to the buyer, but tech is the key to growth and mobility.”
Jason A. Zwiker is a freelance writer in Charleston.