It goes without saying that the Internet has had a massive influence over the world and how we interact with it since it first became available for consumers in the early 90s.
Interestingly it was not an immediate smash hit and it would be about a decade before most people in the US had internet in their homes, and at that point it wasn’t even used in all schools, businesses, or government offices. Within a short time-frame, the internet absolutely exploded and by 2005 the future of the internet was certain- it was here to stay. The wide-spread utility of the internet in almost every aspect of society in a variety of contexts has been compared to other fundamental basics such as water and electricity.
No industry, field of study, hobby, or practice has been untouched by the advent of the Internet. Naturally, the world of fine art has been changed forever as well. Aside from various social media websites that have revolutionized the way that artists can advertise their artwork, such as Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter, there are even social websites that are designed with artists in mind, such as DeviantArt, Pintrist, and Instagram. Of Course there are many ways for artists to sell their work online such as through eBay or Etsy, while a significant number of artists have created their own websites to sell their artwork online, or even just to keep a portfolio of their work to display as a gallery.
Without a doubt one major effect this has had on the art world is that it has somewhat diminished the necessity for displaying work in a physical gallery location. Because artists can very easily display their artwork on their own website they can avoid having to pay commission to a gallery, which often can be as much as 50%! Nowadays artists can sell their work for half as much online than they would at a gallery and they end up making just as much money. First, this allows the artist to sell at a lower price which often increases the number of sales they can make, but it also allows them to sell to anyone around the world (who has an internet connection). Rather than displaying your art in the city and relying upon a fairly small audience of people who are the type to go to an art gallery, you can reach a much wider audience of customers who are not really looking to get dressed up and would simply prefer to get the art shipped right to their door and avoid that hassle.
Despite the universal world-wide spread of the internet, it is certainly the case that museums are still where most artwork older than a few decades is kept (other than in people’s homes). Mostly this is because this very old artwork is normally far too precious to be sold and privately owned, and therefore should be protected by professionals so that future generations can enjoy and learn from that art. That said, many museums also curate their exhibits online as well. Of course in many cases this is not as good as seeing the artwork in its physical format. For example, if you looked at the Mona Lisa online you might get the impression that it’s a fairly large portrait because the digital image of it is usually quite close up, but in reality the Mona Lisa is only about 20 inches wide. It’s not that big. On the other hand, when you see it online you can actually take a good look at it, while if you go to see the Mona Lisa in person there will be a crowd of about 300 people all around you holding their phones over each other's heads to get a good picture. Which isn’t particularly enjoyable.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds and how the world of fine art will continue to adapt in the age of the internet.