Home Art Magazine 2020 Hiscox and ArtTactic Online Art Trade Report

The art market has gone virtual over the last few months, with most dealings having occurred online. It’s no surprise that auction houses have recorded their largest online sales, but they have done well to sell within their estimates. Online platforms have also all reported a huge uplift in commercial activity. Interestingly, this uptake in the online market followed at least two or three years of stagnant growth. Owing to the rapid innovations and investment into the sector many businesses were forced to implement, it may have just secured the future of the sector. 

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The first part of the 2020 edition of annual Online Art Trade Report, from the insurance firm Hiscox and the leading art-market research company, ArtTactic was published recently. Its main takeaway is that sale of online art reached $4.8 billion in 2019, which is just a 4% increase from $4.6 billion which was 2018’s total. That small increase is actually the fourth year in a row of declining growth, after the peak experienced of over 24% growth in 2015. As compared with other sectors, the art trade’s proportion of online versus in-person sales is also lagging, with e-commerce sales in general climbing 16.4% year-on-year, and more specifically the online sale of luxury goods rose 22% in 2018. 

The 2020 edition demonstrates that although the art market itself is shrinking, online sales are performing better than the overall market. Online sales, however, still only account for 7.5% of the overall market which in 2019 was valued at $64.1-billion. 

Anders Petterson, founder of ArtTactic explains that: "Online wasn’t universally being taken seriously as a viable stand-alone sales channel. However, this has changed as a result of COVID-19—arguably more has happened in the last four months than in the last four years, and 65% of the senior management of the platforms we interviewed for the report believe these changes will be permanent and transformative for the sector going forward". 


This is great news for the sector, and there’s a feeling it happened at a critical moment. Further to this, two interesting statistics came out of the surveyed online platforms (of which there were 62). 1) 96% of the platforms agreed that price transparency was hugely important for trust building for online sales. And 2) 87% of online consumers who were polled also agreed that transparency on price was a major decision making factor when purchasing online.

Robert Read, who heads up Hiscox’s art and private client department further explains that "If you’re an online buyer in any other area of the luxury goods market…you are looking for the best price to be published. We haven’t psychologically ransgotten to that stage in the art market yet".

How long-lasting will the changes be?

This is clearly an exceptional year for the online art market. Fairs and auctions have been hosted wholly online. Nobody expects this to continue at the same volume. Looking at the numbers in the report, however, 65% of the platforms polled maintain that the changes issuing from covid-19 will become permanent.

Read the full report here.


Cover image: Ann Craven, Heart of Gold #1, 2009 | 11 x 8 1/2 inches, Zerox Print Edition for White Columns, 2009 | Edition #10 of 50 plus 10 APs Courtesy of the artist, Southard Reid, London and White Columns, New York.

Written by Max Lunn

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