Are Online Sales the Future of the Art Market?

The irreversible progress of technology and its omnipresent influence in our lives has come to a point where almost every aspect of humanity has become, or is about to be, digitized and imminently online. The art market seems to be constantly wavering and going through ups and downs, grasping on to new trends as quickly as it lets the old ones die out, but one thing is sure; the online world is fertile ground for art sales to grow and flourish. Even with many reports claiming the art market is cooling, there are compelling results which all clearly point out to one thing –online art sales are on the rise.

Today, not only the younger generations but mature businessmen and veteran dealers would all agree that if it’s not online, it might as well not exist. In that vein, it should come as no surprise that the social media has become the primary way people discover art. According to a recent study by American Attitudes Toward Art, as many as 22.7% of buyers find new artworks through social media, clearly surpassing museums, galleries and other sources of discovery. Naturally, it is the younger generations who are spearheading this trend, but in the end, they are the next generation of art buyers, sellers and collectors.

Even with all the risks, uncertainties and doubts accompanying online transactions, the overall value of online sales in art has increased significantly in the last year. According to the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2017, online art sales are up by 15%. Major auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Heritage Auctions have all achieved significant increases in online sales. Christie’s reported a great leap of 84% in the value of its exclusively online sales, and Heritage Auctions proudly say 41% of their total auction sales are done online.

Interestingly, the Hiscox report says the number of new online art buyers remains unchanged for the third consecutive year, which only goes to prove that buyers are still hesitant and reluctant to dive into online purchasing. Perhaps they should consider the fact that existing online art buyers have acquired even more art in the last year than ever before. The lack of physical inspection, detailed analysis of the condition, authenticity and many other factors come to mind when debating online sales, especially considering the fact fraudsters and fakes are present in every area, but these are the issues that are being worked on. Recently, the Art and Artistic Legacy Protection (AALP) launched a new platform designed to fight criminal activities and hunt down fakes and forgeries in the online art marketplace.

There is a steady increase in online art sales, and there are no doubts about it. Those not willing to embrace this progress may still try to fight it and keep everything outside of the web, but it is a fight destined for loss. Companies such as UGallery, an online curated art gallery pioneering the e-commerce art space, are using this growth in the online art market and making the most of it. Major Auction houses and galleries are accepting the facts and numbers which simply cannot be ignored. The online art marketplace is already booming, and it’s only going to get bigger.

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