Home Magazine How digital is creating new smart ways to collect… 

Just few days ago I was reading an article by Melanie Gerils on Apollo Magazine, dedicated to the still relevance of the printed auction's catalogue. In the first paragraph, the Journalist report a statement by Alex Rotter - Christie’s chairman of post-war and contemporary art - who confesses to happy memories of shelves filled with these ubiquitous auction-house publications: "I’m a traditionalist; I like catalogues. But there’s definitely a force among the younger members of my department who would do away with them all together"

It is obvious, that day by day is growing a huge posting between the old guard and who want to invest in the new tools offered by the digital universe. If we make a quick stop by thinking concrete results, the data set out by Hiscox Online Art Trade Report in 2018 shows interesting rates about all the online art investment areas, and just to make more easier be geared, we will proceed by distinguishing three macro areas: Online Sales TrendOnline Platform TrendGalleries online sales:

Regarding the percentage of buyers who bought art and collectibles online in 2017 has fallen from 2016, which could suggest that the online art market is struggling to convert hesitant, as well as occasional online buyers into repeat customers. At the same times, there are signs that active online buyers are buying more frequently and at higher prices. In 2018, the share of online art buyers paying an average price in excess of $5,000 per fine art object increased to 25%, up from 21% in 2017. Moreover, almost three quarters (74%) of online art buyers bought more than one art object online in the last 12 months, and are expanding the range and type of artworks and collectibles that they buy.



Moving on the emergence of online services and platforms devoted to the art investment, the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report highlights that the industry consolidation is speeding up with a number of new mergers and acquisitions taking place in the last 12 months, 81% of online platforms questioned, expect to see a higher rate of consolidation in the future (up from 71% in 2017) and most (57%) expect this will be in the form of ‘vertical mergers’ (companies operating in different parts of the value chain). Half of all online platforms said that the online auctions market was going to be the area facing the most intense competition this year. With Artsy making significant investment in the online auction business, competition with other auction aggregators such as Invaluable, LiveAuctioneers and thesaleroom.com is increasing. Although 41% believe that the online art market will consolidate into only a few global platforms, another 30% believe regional and local platforms will dominate, whilst 32% believe the online art market will remain collecting category specific. The divergence in views highlights that the end-game is still open and that there is plenty to play for.

Get to the galleries, three-quarters of galleries used third-party marketplaces to sell art online in 2018 (up from 59% in 2017 and 41% in 2016). One in five (19%) are now using these marketplaces as an outlet for at least half of their online sales (up from 3% in 2017). And, once again, galleries report that their online buyers are mostly new clients - 73% said so this year. But loyalty remains an issue with 43% admitting repeat online buyers were rare.


Installation view, ‘Richard Prince/ New Portraits’ (2014), Gagosian Gallery, New York. Credit Photo by Sean Fader


So it's really hard making sure statements about the digital's absolute domination into the art market, but it also clear that the collectionism are making swifter progress in increasing use of digital tools. Last but not least is Instagram, that has become the art world’s favourite social media platform, with 63% of survey respondents citing it as their platform of choice (up from 57% in 2017 and 48% in 2016). With close to 1 billion users, Instagram is becoming an essential tool for the art industry in reaching consumers beyond the existing art market. Indeed, gallerists, collectors, curators, all of them are becoming huge fans of Instagram, a fundamental tool for their artistic research and to stay in contact with spaces and persons from all over the world.

In conclusion, maybe is difficult to say goodbye to paper catalogue or personal meeting at the galleries, and of course, it will be extremely important preserve the positive aspects of the old ways, but new is around the corner and the progress is just waiting for us.


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