Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2021


The online art market has stormed ahead in the last 18 months and could treble in size compared to online sales in 2019. It is likely to represent nearly 25% of the overall market by the end of 2021.

Buyers and sellers have both got used to trading online and what used to be a brave new frontier in the art market is now business as usual. Darwin would indeed be proud of the way we have all adapted. It has also been good for the soul to see the art world physically opening up again and it was important that the first major art fair in Basel was a success.

The online art market will never fully replace the physical market but it will continue to grow until it  reaches what we all hope will be a happy point of equilibrium.

The other big and certainly for me, totally unexpected, event that has exploded into view are NFTs.
Activity has been up and down like a yo-yo but what is undeniable is that they are attracting a new breed of collector/speculator to the market and are here to stay. It will undoubtedly create a bubble in the short term and we can expect a few to make a fortune whilst many will end up shedding a tear before the NFT market settles down and becomes part of the mainstream.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the report.

Robert Read
Head of Fine Art and Private Clients

Key Findings

  • Buyer confidence has been the main trigger for the upsurge in online sales, with many willing to pay higher prices for art works.
  • The shift to online is likely to outlast the pandemic; 56% of art buyers and 65% of online art platforms surveyed in 2020’s report said they believed the switch to digital sales will be permanent.
  • An estimated $3.125 billion, or 46% of online art sales in the first half of 2021 were sold through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
  • Fine art accounted for the largest share of online sales from the platforms; 27%, down from 32% in 2020.
  • More online platforms are going to accept cryptocurrency payments, with nearly four in ten (38%) planning to accept crypto payments within the next 12 months, a big rise on last year (15%).
  • There has been a significant rise in the number of online art platforms that intend to embed blockchain technology into their businesses.
  • An estimated $3.5 billion of NFT crypto art and collectibles have been sold from the beginning of January to the end of September 2021 with NFTs opening new possibilities in the collection of both digital and physical art.

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