I signed up with Saatchi Online almost as soon as they started offering free online portfolios in 2006. At the time, they offered “your own page which you can update as much as you wish. You can post up to eight images…and there is no fee, we have created this to assist artists in raising their profiles.” OK! Sounds good. Where do I sign up? (here: http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/yourgallery/register/)
The Saatchi Online site is a very nice looking site, though I find the little boxes of links surrounding both sides of the main content column a bit overwhelming as a navigation method, and the page can be ridiculously long (see my page at right >). There are some main navigation links at the top of every page, though I am not sure if those links include everything you can find on their site. Luckily, they’ve included a very extensive site map.
They have a lot to offer; besides information on the physical Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, they offer online chat, forums, and critiques; calls to entry, grants and funding; information on art fairs; links to art schools, dealers, galleries, and museums; a daily online magazine, blogs, and news; sections for under 17 students; and — perhaps one of the more interesting perks they offer — a “showdown,” where you can submit your work to be voted on by viewers in competition with other artists.
Over time, they have made a number of improvements to the portfolio pages, including increasing the number of images you can add — it appears to be 25 at present. They do limit the size of your images to 500 pixels wide and under 2mb, but I find that is generous enough (and larger than they allowed formerly). They also added an online salesroom, where you can offer your work for sale. They take no commission and charge no fees for this service; the sales agreement is between artist and buyer.
Creating or updating your own gallery information on the site is quite easy; again, just copy and paste your plain text resume, artists statement, bio, etc. into the appropriate boxes. There’s also a place for your photo, your email address, a link to your own website, and future shows. Uploading new images is also very easy, and some of the fields “remember” what you typed into those fields previously, making it even easier.
They do request that you post the sizes of your images in centimeters, which is easy enough using an online conversion calculator (for those of us not thoroughly versed in the metric system). You might want to include the size in feet and inches in the description section, though, for those who don’t visualize in centimeters.
I did have a few technical issues when uploading new work today, which hopefully, they will fix soon.
I also wish they would give the artist some way of setting the order that the pieces appear on your page, especially since each piece is shown rather large, and in vertical succession; it appears that the piece shown at the top of your page will be the first one you uploaded (so potentially your oldest piece) — which is exactly the opposite of how I would order them. As it is, the only way to fix that is start over every time you refresh your portfolio there.
Now for a few words on the Salesroom — this is the area where you can sell your artwork online — it is a totally different page from your portfolio page. Unless I’m missing something, there is no direct link from your online gallery to your salesroom (and vice-versa, unless you are logged out), so you have to click on a link in the top drop down navigation to go to the Salesroom, then look yourself up.
Once there, though, it very easy to add your pieces to your Salesroom: with one click, you can add one of your portfolio pieces to the Sales page, and with one more click add the price, and then repeat the process for all your pieces. One curiosity I discovered is that I was able to upload more than 25 pieces to the Salesroom, though only 25 pieces will show up on your portfolio page.
How your work in the Salesroom is displayed to viewers is disappointing. One image is served up at a time, and while the “next image” will be yours, it is served up randomly, which means anyone viewing your Salesroom may not see all your work — unless they are obsessively patient — and they may see the same piece over and over again, giving you no control over what they will see or in what order.
Saatchi Online may be another good place to get more eyes on your work, but they show all work randomly, and the only way I’ve been able to find my own work on there is through a direct link or doing a search on my name. So I do have to wonder how many other eyes have actually landed on my art. There is certainly a lot of interesting information available to artists on the Saatchi Online site, which probably makes it worth your while to check out — and I have had requests for information on at least one of my pieces through them; maybe I’ll get more now that I’ve refreshed my pages.
The bottom line, however — I would not choose this site as my one and only online portfolio site. It may be a nice addition to your own personal website or another free online portfolio, and then again, it may not even be worth your time setting it up. I kind of hate to say this, because there’s much to like about the site, but the limited ways that your work may be found seem to really limit the number of viewers who will get introduced to your work on their site.