Hiscox released their second annual online art trade report today estimating sales online had doubled to $1.6bn in a year. Hiscox sees more growth in online sales but has discovered they are not separate from gallery or auction house sales. Not surprisingly, Steven Murphy, CEO of Christie’s agrees. Here’s what he told the Wall Street Journal:
WSJ: The bulk of your business is still live auctions. Where do you see the opportunity online?
Mr. Murphy: The number of active parties is much greater than the audience we’ve been serving. They’ve been there at art fairs, art dealers. Now, we’re finally accessing them.
The potential for growth for Christie’s is exponential because of the number of active buyers and interested buyers. And online provides us with the means of connection with them that is far more facile than bricks and mortars.
Last year, was our proof-of-concept year. We had 60 online-only auctions of various categories. It was a year we didn’t task our team with doing huge numbers. This year begins the real surge.
WSJ: What items sell best online?
Mr. Murphy: It’s early days. The price point that works best for us, so far, on online-only auctions is between £5000 and £1 million (US$8,414 to US$1.7 million). That’s a big zone, but it’s not above or below. And the categories that work are myriad. It’s not only watches and wine. It’s all art, a wide range.
The Hiscox report is worth reading in full. You can download a copy here (The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2014) or read this distillation from Reuters:
“The findings indicate that online art e-commerce will not exist as a separate entity – it will augment and co-exist with what is happening in the real, physical art world,” Hiscox said.
The report did find, however, that future generations of collectors were likely to make their first art purchases online, with almost 25 percent of 20- to 30-year-olds surveyed for the report saying they first bought art online without seeing the physical piece.
Although 39 percent of respondents said buying art online was less intimidating than at a gallery or auction, having a bricks-and-mortar presence instilled confidence, with 90 percent of online buyers purchasing from a physical space before turning to websites.
Limited edition prints were a popular entry point for online buyers, the report said, with 55 percent of those surveyed having bought a print online in the last 12 months.
Christie’s Makes Push Into Online Sales (WSJ.com)