Art Market

What’s Motivating Collectors to Buy Art in 2021

Artsy Editors
Jul 20, 2021 4:24PM

This article is part of “Art Collecting 2021: An Artsy Report.” To download a PDF of the complete report, click here.

Collectors who used an online marketplace to buy art

All data based on Artsy survey responses.

Among all collectors surveyed, 83% said they have purchased art online at some point, and 75% have purchased art online within the past year. In 2019, less than two-thirds (64%) of respondents reported that they had ever purchased art online, marking a 30% increase between 2019 and 2021. Among newer collectors, these numbers were even higher, with 90% having purchased art online at some point, and 85% having done so within the past year.

When it comes to finding new art and artists, online art marketplaces are the preferred place to browse and discover art among the largest share of all survey respondents (25%), followed by auction houses and gallery-hosted websites or viewing rooms, both of which were favored by roughly 23% of collectors. Among Next-Gen Collectors, online marketplaces and Instagram were virtually tied as the preferred platforms for discovering new art online, followed by auction houses and gallery-hosted websites or viewing rooms.

Where collectors prefer to discover art

All data based on Artsy survey responses.



Two-thirds of collectors said they were driven by a desire to build a collection (67%). Decorating their spaces (58%), supporting artists (47%), and inspiration (46%) were also leading motivators. A smaller share (42%) expressed a desire to make sound investments with their acquisitions. Investment was a much more important driver among Next-Gen Collectors, 58% of whom said it was one of their top reasons for collecting. Overall, the joy of collecting was a major motivator for survey respondents: 64% said they consider collecting art to be one of their greatest passions.

Why collectors buy art

All data based on Artsy survey responses.


Though most research paints purchasing art online and purchasing art in person as two concretely separate modes of business, the reality is less clean-cut. In all, 64% of surveyed collectors said they have discovered an artwork online and later purchased it in person, and this number remained fairly consistent regardless of how long the buyer had been active in the art market. This suggests a need for sellers to better understand the relationship between online and in-person purchases, and the ways in which online efforts positively impact physical sales and vice versa.


In 2019, 41% of all surveyed art collectors had used an online art marketplace to purchase art. Among collectors surveyed in 2021, that number was 57%. Purchasing art at auction also grew in that time period; while 58% of collectors in 2019 said they’d purchased artworks at auction, that number was up to 71% in 2021. This may be due in part to the proliferation of online auctions spurred by the pandemic.

We believe that the most important action sellers can take to attract new collectors is making the price of art transparent and allowing buyers to pay by credit card. The number of artworks uploaded to Artsy in 2020 that could be purchased with a credit card increased 120% year over year, and works on Artsy with listed prices are five times as likely to sell as those without.

Artsy Editors

Thumbnail image: Eun Jeong Kim, detail of “Haedong Yonggungsa,” 2021. Courtesy of Hakgojae Gallery.