Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2020

Image credit
Ann Craven
Detail of Heart of Gold #1, 2009
Zerox Print Edition for White Columns
11 x 8 1/2 inches
© Edition #10 of 50 plus 10 APs Courtesy of the artist
Southard Reid, London and White Columns, New York

Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2020

Foreword

Will coronavirus (COVID-19) be the catalyst to finally ignite a spluttering online art market? It is the question all art market twitchers are asking.

I could sit here on the fence and find good reasons to say yes, no or maybe. I am going for a bold yes, hopefully not as the result of cabin fever, having been locked away so long.

The main reason is that social distancing is here to stay for long enough that it will change how we buy art as well as many other things. No longer will we have the joy and pain of crowded art fairs and gallery openings. Dealers will have to find new ways to create the buzz that makes us have to buy NOW, lest we dwell and lose yet another treasure that we can’t live without. I am not sure how, but I am sure they will.

As always, I hope you find this report useful as we wait with baited breath to see what happens next. In the immortal words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard – “Things are only impossible until they are not”.

Robert Read
Head of Fine Art and Private Clients
Hiscox

hiscox-art-trade-report-cover-2020
Download the report

Key Findings

  • Online sales trends
  • The impact of COVID-19
  • Market consolidation
 
    • Online art and collectible sales stalled in 2019, with growth in this market having steadily declined in recent years. Against a backdrop of a slowing global art economy, the outlook for digital sales at the beginning of 2020 was modest, at best.

    • Fine art accounts for 32% of online sales, significantly ahead of watches and jewelry (23%), decorative arts (12%) and furniture (8%). ‘Other collectables’ such as stamps and memorabilia now account for a quarter (25%) of all sales. As traditional auction houses look to attract younger collectors, we expect to see a greater focus on this segment moving forwards.

    • For most traditional art world operators, the pandemic has exposed an over-dependence on traditional channels (physical art fairs, gallery exhibitions, auctions etc.) An online presence is more likely now than ever before to keep the art world afloat.

    • Halfway through 2020 the impact of Covid-19 appears to have accelerated online sales, with online-only auction sales by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips 436% higher than the same period last year.

    • At this stage, nothing is certain. When questioned about the longevity of these changes, 65% of online sales platforms said they expected the pandemic to have a permanent and transformative impact on the sector.

    • A large majority (67%) of platforms believe the online art market will be dominated be a few global players within the next five years. The ten biggest platforms surveyed globally already account for approximately 68% of the total market.

    • Some 63% expect existing art market operators such as galleries to emerge as the big online players, while 48% expect an outsider (such as a start-up or tech giant) to disrupt the market.

Online art sales trends

  • Online art and collectible sales grew 4% in 2019 to $4.82 billion

    Online art and collectible sales stalled in 2019, with growth in this market having steadily declined in recent years. Against a backdrop of a slowing global art economy, the outlook for digital sales at the beginning of 2020 was modest, at best.

  • Rapid growth in ‘other collectibles’

    Fine art accounts for 32% of online sales, significantly ahead of watches and jewelry (23%), decorative arts (12%) and furniture (8%). ‘Other collectables’ such as stamps and memorabilia now account for a quarter (25%) of all sales. As traditional auction houses look to attract younger collectors, we expect to see a greater focus on this segment moving forwards.

The impact of COVID-19

  • COVID-19 could kick-start the long-awaited digital transformation

    For most traditional art world operators, the pandemic has exposed an over-dependence on traditional channels (physical art fairs, gallery exhibitions, auctions etc.) An online presence is more likely now than ever before to keep the art world afloat.

  • The crisis has already accelerated online sales for auction houses

    Halfway through 2020 the impact of Covid-19 appears to have accelerated online sales, with online-only auction sales by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips 436% higher than the same period last year.

  • A temporary boost or will it last?

    At this stage, nothing is certain. When questioned about the longevity of these changes, 65% of online sales platforms said they expected the pandemic to have a permanent and transformative impact on the sector.

Market consolidation

  • Consolidation still widely expected

    A large majority (67%) of platforms believe the online art market will be dominated be a few global players within the next five years. The ten biggest platforms surveyed globally already account for approximately 68% of the total market.

  • Big galleries could emerge as new online players

    Some 63% expect existing art market operators such as galleries to emerge as the big online players, while 48% expect an outsider (such as a start-up or tech giant) to disrupt the market.

Online consumer trends (released in Q3 2020)

Online art technology services (released in Q4 2020)

  • Online consumer trends to be released in Q3 2020

    • Online art technology services to be released in Q4 2020

Key moments during the COVID-19 crisis

 
 

Scroll

Drag

11 March 2020

WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

13 March 2020

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) shifted its message to call attention to its expanded online offerings (e.g. digital content, ‘Timeline of Art History’, a dedicated site for kids and a YouTube channel).

15 March 2020

Gallery Weekend Beijing announced its postponement to 22 May 2020 due to COVID-19 and that it will be ‘expanding its digital initiatives, such as a new podcast, live broadcasts and short videos’.

18 March 2020

Online auction Paddle8 filed for bankruptcy

20 March 2020

Art Basel Hong Kong Online Viewing Rooms opened. David Zwirner showed On Painting: Art Basel Online – the gallery’s most expensive viewing room to date with a total value of more than $16 million.

23 March 2020

Google joined forces with more than 30 museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Nagoya City Art Museum, to create a virtual show of Frida Kahlo’s life and work.

25 March 2020

Art Dubai live streams a think-tank ‘dedicated to the stories and narratives shaping the current coronavirus fallout’. It featured guest-speakers such as the Turner Prize co-winner Lawrence Abu Hamdan.

31 March 2020

Sotheby’s London online sale of 20th-century middle eastern art saw 60% of the 67 lots exceeding it estimates, although the sale’s final total of $2.7 million, failed to meet the pre-sale high estimate.

1 April 2020

Hauser & Wirth pledged to donate 10% of all sales from its online shows to the World Health Organization.

8 April 2020

The Other Art Fair launched Online Studios – a new online platform that gives thousands of art-lovers the opportunity to keep discovering and supporting the Fair’s 800+ independent artists, exclusively, all year round.

14 April 2020

The Dallas Art Fair launched a digital event offering collectors the chance to preview works from participating galleries, place reserves or make purchases in advance.

16 April 2020

Hauser & Wirth online exhibition of works based on social distancing during lockdown by the US artist George Condo sell out.

20 April 2020

Charles Saatchi announced he will sell 100 works by emerging artists from his Saatchi Gallery collection via an online sale with Christie’s in May.

21 April 2020

Sotheby’s ‘Contemporary Curated’ sale brought in $6.4 million – an online auction record for the auction house. The sale was transplanted online in response to the pandemic.

19 May 2020

Launch of ‘Curations’, a free-to-use initiative by Art UK. This allows users to create virtual exhibitions drawn from Art UK’s online collection.

26 May 2020

Eyebeam announced its project called ‘Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future’, which asks artists to design new ways of interacting through the internet.

3 June 2020

Launch of a new online platform called Kovet. Art, founded by Saraswati Rachupalli. This platform will showcase works by graduates fresh out of UK colleges.

20 June 2020

Former Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art, Loïc Gouzer, launch Fair Warning, a members-only app that will auction a single work of art roughly every week.

4 July 2020

UK galleries and museums begin opening their doors as many Government restrictions are lifted.