Are collectors still buying as much art online as they were during lockdown? We crunched the numbers to find out

Are collectors still buying as much art online as they were during lockdown?  We crunched the numbers to find out

When online art sales took a big leap in 2020, we all heard the same explanation: people flush with stimulus checks or stock market gains decided to invest in their surroundings because they found themselves spending more time at home than ever before.

Flash before two years. Governments lifted restrictions, offices recalled workers, and in-person auctions and art fairs resumed. So what happened to all that revenue from online sales?

In the end, he kept climbing. In 2021, over $1.5 billion worth of artwork was sold online at Sotheby’s, Phillips, Christie’s, Bonhams and Artnet Auctions.

So what does this say about the future of the market? Read on for answers.

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

During the lockdown, people who wanted to buy art had little choice but to put it online. What happened after they were allowed to leave their home?

Amazingly, they actually continued to buy art online. Even as collectors ventured back into salesrooms for live auctions, revenue from online-only sales continued to grow. The $1.5 billion in digital sales generated in 2021 by the Big Three, plus Bonhams’ own auction platform and Artnet, represented a 35% year-over-year jump.

It’s also a staggering 12x increase from 2019, before the pandemic forced auction houses to (finally) drag their operations into the 21st century.

Looks like shopping habits have changed for good. But how exactly have they changed? Do people buy Continued line art, or just more Dear line art?

Both. In 2021, a total of 27,215 works were sold online across the houses we reviewed, up 17% year over year. This is all the more remarkable given that in 2020 most sales only take place in cyberspace. (We define “online-only sales” as those that occur entirely online, with no bidders present IRL.)

But it is not only the number of transactions that is increasing. The average price of works sold online also remained on an upward trajectory in 2021, rising from $46,595 to $53,685. It’s a bump of about 15 percent.

OK, now I want details. Who is the leader in online sales?

Sotheby’s. The auction house began investing heavily in technology infrastructure before the pandemic and remains at the forefront, having generated $778.5 million in online sales alone in 2021. Christie’s came in second, with $620.8 million. Phillips landed in last place, with just $15 million, less than Bonhams or Artnet Auctions.

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

So what’s the big picture here?

The pandemic has made buyers, sellers and auction houses more comfortable with the idea of ​​transacting online more frequently and for more expensive items. These changing behaviors remained in place even after the lockdown measures were lifted.

This represents a fairly fundamental change. In 2019 – which, however, is not really this A long time ago, the average price of an artwork sold online was $11,228. In just two years, this figure has almost quadruple.

While art fairs and galleries have struggled to maintain engagement via online viewing rooms, auction houses seem to have managed to move the needle when it comes to moving exhibits. online business.

And now that the door – or, perhaps more aptly, the browser window – is open, it’s unlikely to close.

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