Online sales look set to cut through the notoriously opaque and traditionally relationship-driven art market, according to a new trade report conducted by research and analysis firm ArtTactic.
The Online Art Trade Report 2015 found the online market grew 68% to an estimated $2.64 billion in 2014, and the majority of buyers were motivated by potential investment returns on their purchase.
The report found the majority of these purchases were under £10,000 (84%), but there are an increasing number of examples of artworks selling at higher price points – take for instance Edward Hopper’s painting October on Cape Cod (1946), which sold for $9.6 million just over three years ago.
In an interview last year, Lucinda Blythe, commercial director at The Auction Room, said prints were selling particularly well. The art auction website had sold prints by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol.
Robert Read, head of fine art at Hiscox, the insurance firm that commissioned the report, says: “The speed and confidence with which new and established collectors are adapting signals a new era.
“Physical gallery space and auction houses can no longer act in isolation.”
The estimated value of the global art market last year was $55.2 billion, meaning online sales accounted for 4.8% of the market.
Read added: “There are too many players in the online art market, as one would expect at this stage of the development cycle, and it is still impossible to say who the winners will be.
“We will have to wait for a couple more years of mergers, acquisitions, thrills and spills to see who emerges on top, but what's clear already is that those with a trusted brand, a 'real world' presence and an online business have a distinct advantage.”
The art world is notoriously relationship-driven with dealers often favouring prominent collectors as buyers to boost the clout of their artists. But if purchases are increasingly made with the click of a mouse, this sales model could deteriorate.
Several family business next gens are involved in the online art market, including Hugo Mulliez, who started Artsper, as well as Eugenio Re Rebaudengo’s Artuner.