The Economist is trying to put the VIP Art Fair in context. So it went to Christie’s for some comparable numbers:
In 2010 Christie’s sold some $114m worth of art and antiques online, amounting to 16% of its lots. Yet this represented only 3% of total sales. Christie’s clients bid on the internet for commoditised items such as watches, wine, prints and jewellery. For the auctioneer’s most expensive offerings—paintings, sculptures and antiques—they telephoned or went to the saleroom and bid at auction by raising their arms, as they have done for centuries.
The real advantage of Christie’s digital offering is that it draws new customers: more than half of the firm’s online bidders last year had never registered for a Christie’s auction before. Attracting new customers is also the main reason why dealers signed up for the VIP art fair. They expect visitors mainly to gather information about their offerings and follow up with a phone call. For reasons of privacy, no sale will be conducted on the fair’s site. “Our expectations for actual sales during the art fair are modest,” says Ms Cohan.
Look, Don’t Touch (Economist)