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User participation and valuation in digital art platforms: the case of Saatchi Art

Jin Woo Lee (University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK)
Soo Hee Lee (University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 9 April 2019

Issue publication date: 19 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of digital platforms on the contemporary visual art market. Drawing on the theoretical insights of the technology acceptance model, the meaning transfer model and arts marketing literature, the authors conceptualise the role of user participation in creating the meaning and value of contemporary artworks in the online art market.


The authors conduct a qualitative study of Saatchi Art as an instrumental case for theorising. It is an online platform for trading visual artworks created by young and emerging artists. The data for this study were collected through direct observation and documentary reviews, as well as user comments and buyer reviews from Saatchi Art. The authors reviewed 319 buyer comments Art and 30 user comments. The collected data are supplemented with various secondary sources such as newspapers, magazines, social media texts and videos.


The growth of digital art platforms such as Saatchi Art provides efficiency and accessibility of information to users while helping them overcome the impediments of physical galleries such as geographical constraints and intimidating psychological environments, thereby attracting novice collectors. However, users’ involvement in the process of valuing artworks is limited and still guided by curatorial direction.

Research limitations/implications

The first limitation of this research is that the data in this research cannot capture interactions between users, though users’ intention to use Saatchi Art is affected by the social influence of other users. Second, this research has not examined artists as users of digital art platforms and their interactions with other types of users. Artists’ intention to use the online platform might be underlined by enhancing their status in the peer group or seeking legitimacy in the field by following other artists and getting recommendations from important referents.

Practical implications

The outcomes of this research suggest that newcomers in the online art market should acknowledge that users’ intention to use the online art platform is determined by not only technological usefulness of the website but also the symbolic capital of the information provider.


User participation in the online art market is guided by curatorial direction rather than social influence. This confirms re-intermediation of marketing relationships, highlighting the role of new intermediaries such as digital platforms in arts marketing.



Lee, J.W. and Lee, S.H. (2019), "User participation and valuation in digital art platforms: the case of Saatchi Art", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 53 No. 6, pp. 1125-1151.



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