I’m so stoked, because the new report just came out this week from HISCOX, the global insurance company that underwrites Lloyd’s of London and that crowd. They just released their online art trade report for 2020. Looks like they will be publishing updates throughout the year, since things with the pandemic are still so volatile, but the initial report is out, and things look pretty damn good so far.
Let me start off by saying that this report tracks the global art market, but at the top end. So everything in this report directly addresses that level of the market. The big, big, galleries and auction houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips… not so much struggling emerging artists in Houston, Texas… but hey, knowing what they know can only be good for us, right? So this report is good FOR us, but not written TO us. I’ll put a direct link to the full report in the notes section below.
So there has been a steady increase in online art sales every year, and though that growth stalled a bit in 2019, there was still growth last year. The first part of 2020 was not looking much better until the Coronavirus hit in March. In the forward to the report by Robert Read, Head of Fine Art & Private Clients states that the pandemic has accelerated online sales growth, and some of the big houses are boasting a 436% increase this year compared to last. The pandemic health response also highlighted a real overdependence on traditional art market platforms like art fairs, gallery openings, and auctions. People just can’t attend those types of events these days. So online sales have shown a huge growth. But will that trend last? Read also confirms that over half of the online platforms believe that it will outlast the pandemic, and fundamentally change the way people buy art from now on. I hope you’re taking notes… The other thing he points out is that the biggest global players will likely dominate the art market in the future. The ten biggest galleries currently account for 68% of the total art market, and since they have the customer base, the market share, and the infrastructure in place, they will likely only increase their importance as this new market shapes itself.
So what else is in the report? Well, fine art still outsells other collectables online. As we’ve discussed before, Millennials tend to enjoy shopping online, and they’re buying art. As galleries and auction houses increasingly target this demographic, we should expect to see more of a focus on this group of buyers. I’m guessing we should all start to think of ways to market online to Millennials as well. Perhaps some of the marketing done from the big houses can trickle down our way. And the outlook is very positive. The report indicates that 80% of the online platforms are expecting online sales to increase further in the next 12 months. With all the closures, illness, and death. This sounds like a ray of hope in the darkness. Don’t get me wrong. The Covid-19 pandemic will doubtless have many negative effects on the art world. Smaller galleries may have to close, individual artists may have slumps in sales, art fair and museum closures are hurting everyone, and of course, many of us may get sick and fewer may die. This is not a positive time, but it does appear to me that, in this dark tunnel, there is a shaft of light. I also find it amazing that, in a world so troubled and so uncertain, art is still of significant value to a frightened and changing world. So there will be those who go bankrupt, or have too much overhead to maintain their businesses, and still others that may get gobbled up by larger firms and new innovations and technologies, but we’re going to get through this. We still have a product that people want to buy.
Other interesting bits of the report suggest that individual artists should be actively promoting their work online through e-commerce platforms and social media. It also cites that most online platforms have no intention of ever having a physical space, so don’t think you need a studio to be competitive. The report also confirms that online sales are not restricted to cheaper items. People are buying online in the 100s of thousands to 1 million dollar range. Don’t be afraid to post your higher priced works online. The report overwhelmingly suggests that having the price visible to online shoppers is key. Include the price. Most of us do not yet trust cryptocurrency for payment, but we should be aware that we may have to embrace that form of payment someday soon.
Such exciting stuff. Go check out the report, and let’s all start talking about how to apply some of the trends from the big guys, down our level of the global art world. Best news I’ve had since this whole thing began…
Here’s the link to the report… Check it out.