“You can see the auction houses moving into this space and see intermediaries moving into the dealer space, but for the high-end dealers there was no movement at all, so why is this the case?” said Rachel Pownall, TEFAF chair in art markets at Maastricht University and author of the report.
This marks the first time that TEFAF, the prestigious 29-year old art fair known for its strict vetting policy, released a supplementary report, focusing on the online art market, to its annual analysis of the state and size of the art market as a whole. The online survey responses from 673 dealers (out of over 8,000 contacted) showed that just under 60% reported their e-commerce business was profitable in 2016, 20% reported breaking even, and 20% said their online activities run at a loss.
E-commerce is defined for the purpose of the report as “the role that the digital landscape actively plays in the art world,” and includes both transactions carried out online and non-transactional functions such as marketing through social media channels, according to Michael Plummer, managing director of TEFAF New York. It was unclear from the report how individual dealers defined how these wide-ranging activities contributed to a net profit or loss for their businesses.