Thoughts on the Online Art Market

DANNY MCDONALD, “Mechanical Bank”, 2015, collection of Ioannis Christoforakos

‘If you rest, you rust’. The phrase is especially well suited to the art market, because our fast-paced culture demands that those dealing in artworks continually develop and are capable of making adjustments over the long-term. The Bernheimer family’s stand at the Munich Highlight was an excellent recent example of the functioning of tradition and advancement, of continuity and change. With innovative art and demonstrating an openness to new ideas around the subject of art dealership, the family re-laid the foundations for a success story so great that the next generation will still be talking about it.

The online art market may still play a supporting role when viewed in terms of the overall market for art. Studies nonetheless show that the digitalization of the market has increased significantly. Many collectors and galleries confirm, for example, that they regularly buy and sell art just on the basis of a digital image – providing that the artist is known.

According to the Online Art Trade Report 2015 of the British specialist insurers Hiscox, the total value of online art sales increased from just under one billion dollars in 2013, to an estimated $2.64 billion in 2015. Thus the proportion of art that was purchased via the Internet is increasing globally. Auction houses operating wholly online, such as Auctionata or Paddle8 reported increased turnover of 148% and 146% respectively (2014). The digital image will never surpass the experiencing of art in physical space.

Nonetheless, those new to the art world often see it as being elitist and difficult to enter, which is why many welcome the chance to discover art on the net, and see it as a viable alternative. For them, and for online buyers under the age of 35, online platforms can often represent an entry point for beginning a collection – a point that shouldn’t be underestimated. Painting is the favorite art form when it comes to online acquisitions, followed closely by artists’ prints and photography.

The opportunities in the online art market are currently being expanded thanks to a number of innovative companies, even though the price of a first art work acquisition is on average still below € 1,200. The trust demonstrated by investors confirms the belief in the market’s long-term success. Galleries could also make effective use of the new online business – providing that the quality seal for integrity, trust and security is in line with the broader digital market place. (Cf. artsy).

Technology plays an additional role here, with 3D representations, image rotation, and high-resolution zoom function all aiding purchase decisions through the Internet. Condition reports and certificates from the maker of the work or from established art dealers can further strengthen the sense of trust. New service packages are also being developed that concentrate on the areas of logistics and insurance, with the aim of offering greater security. 
 How will the market develop? 
 Patterns and motives behind the purchase of art will continue to change. The influence of social networks (in the art sector particularly Facebook and Instagram) should not be underestimated. The significant growth of online-purchasing is sure to generate new ideas and platforms anyway. We will see over the coming years who can keep up.