YANGON, April 25 (Xinhua) — With middle-class people in Myanmar turning to collecting paintings as an investment, the country’s arts sales are seeing a resurgence that has not been seen in decades, not through traditional sales at exhibitions but in online transactions using digital banking.
“Thanks to the digital banking payment system amidst limitations in the banking industry, the online sales have become popular, attracting local collectors,” said U Tin Win, a 71-year-old prominent artist and owner of the Beikthano Gallery in Yangon.
The art industry is now at a turning point, away from traditional exhibitions at galleries and towards selling the paintings online on social media via the digital payment systems of banks, he said.
“I’ve never seen this kind of boom in arts sales since I established my gallery in 1995,” said the artist, who is prominent at home and abroad for his hyper-realism paintings on Myanmar’s hill tribes.
Most galleries in Myanmar were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and COVID-19 restrictions on gathering of people and bans on tourism hit hard the art market that relies mainly on foreign travelers.
Online art sales on social media have become popular in Myanmar after online exhibitions by some private galleries and artists that “take half, donate half” from the earnings of the sales during the second and third wave of COVID-19.
Over 70 million kyats (over 37,837 U.S. dollars) of income from online sales aiding artists who were struggling for livelihood in the second COVID-19 wave came as a surprise to traditional gallery owners.
The success and advantages of online sales amidst the hard time with COVID-19 restrictions have led to the mushrooming of online arts sales, especially in Yangon and Mandalay.
“I have already held the online sales of my collections for four times. Two-thirds of the paintings that I collected for years were sold out at every sale,” said Tin Win.
Pyi Soe, 51, owner of the online Mercury Art Gallery, said the online market has brought some job opportunities, adding that retaining this online market is possible only when the country’s economy is good in the long run.
The online galleries have kept the sales information secret. “Sold Out,” “We specially thank the person who bought this painting,” is the only message left over the sold-out paintings, proving the rising sales.
While online sales are popular, some private galleries including Lokanat Galleries, Myanmar’s first and historic private gallery founded in 1971 in Yangon, do not enter the online market.
“Due to this historic gallery’s prestige, and as this gallery does not base on profits, we do not hold online sales,” said Aung Myint Tun, 33, manager of the Lokanat Galleries, who has been working here for 21 years.
“I am optimistic about the online sales because it brings opportunities to both collectors and artists,” he added. “The online sales have spread information about arts not only to arts communities but also to arts enthusiasts.”
Though the galley did not sell the paintings online, it posts every exhibition on its Facebook page and also the lists of the paintings through Viber if collectors request, he said.
“When they see the paintings on our Facebook Page and Viber, some come to the exhibition … and buy the paintings,” said Aung Myint Tun.
“This boom comes as a surprise to us, with both new and old collectors,” he said.