The report makes clear that this year will be an exceptional one for online art sales: Auction houses’ online transactions are already vastly outpacing their 2019 numbers; several of the year’s biggest art fairs have been conducted wholly online; and galleries big and small have launched or expanded their digital offerings.
Lingering questions concern not only how much of this year’s art market will shift online (how will that 7.5% share of the art market that transacted online in 2019 grow?) but also how enduring that shift will be. Among the platforms polled by ArtTactic and Hiscox, 65% said they expect that the shifts made due to the COVID-19 crisis will become permanent.
“I don’t believe this year’s growth rate will be representative for the future years—this has been an exceptional period, the art world has been forced to embrace online, as no other alternative was available,” Petterson said. “However, I believe we have seen a significant change in ‘perception and attitude’ in the art market towards the potential and importance of online—and I believe this will continue to drive future growth.”
For his part, Read offered a more specific prediction: that online sales could account for half of the art market within the next six years.
“We’re never going to get to a stage where it’s just an online art market—of course there’s going to be the physical side, because that’s fun as well, and when people are having fun they buy,” Read said. “What’s abundantly clear is that maybe we get over the COVID pandemic, but there are likely to be other pandemics in the future, and you as an art sales business can’t afford to not have a plan B in place working and functioning.”