Online art sales reached $3.27 billion, up 24% in the last 12 months despite a decrease in global art auction sales in 2015, according to a new report by insurance giant Hiscox.
The Hiscox Online Art Trading Report has indicated that the lower end of the art market could be more resilient to a slowdown than works selling in the “mid- to high-end price range”.
Growth patterns vary across different online art platforms, but traditional players are catching up. Pure-play online auction houses such as Auctionata and Paddle8 continue to expand their client base and more than doubled their sales growth last year.
Invaluable, the auction aggregator who recently also announced their expansion into fixed-price sales, increased its online sales by 60%, according to the report. It also indicated that traditional auction houses are starting to gain momentum in this space, with Sotheby’s reporting online sales of over $100 million so far in 2016.
Christie’s reported an 11% growth rate in digital sales in 2015 to $36.4 million and Heritage Auction, one of the dominant online auction houses recorded online sales of $344 million last year, slightly below the $357 million achieved by the company in 2014.
The report said that 48% of the online art buyers surveyed said they would buy more art and collectibles online in the next 12 months compared to the previous 12 months. 44% said they would buy “about the same” and only 8% said they would buy less art and collectibles online.
Existing online art buyers are buying more, but there is still resistance among 51% of art buyers in buying art online.
Nearly half (49%) of respondents said they have bought art directly online, which is the same result as last year – but up from 39% in 2014.
However, among “new art buyers” 41% said they had bought art online in the last 12 months (down from 43% in 2015) and 43% of young art buyers said they had bought art directly online (down from 46% in 2015), which could suggest that the online art buying trend might not be catching on as fast as in previous years.
Robert Read, head of fine art at Hiscox, said: “Sotheby’s and Christie’s do really well in our newly created [report], but have they done enough or are they still stuck in a time warp?
“Dealers are struggling with the online challenge but remain insulated from reality as the traditional model still works – just about – and most are too small to take such a high risk gamble – probably a case of damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”