Chapter 5
Online Sales

Chapter 5 looks at sales in the online art market, reporting on its size and key structural features. The chapter focuses on e-commerce in the dealer and auction sectors, and presents findings on distance and pricing in online transactions. It also provides insights into how HNW collectors interact with the market online and through social media.

Key Findings

Online sales of art and antiques were estimated at $5.9 billion in 2019, a decline of 2% year-on-year, and accounting for 9% of sales in the art market by value.

The Online Art and Antiques Market, 2013–2019

For those dealers who made online sales in 2019, 57% were to new buyers, and for second-tier auction houses these new buyers accounted for 34% of their online sales.

Share of Online Sales by Buyer Type

While the bulk of online gallery transactions (77%) connect buyers and sellers who were more than 1,000 kilometers apart, around 18% were within a 500-kilometer radius of each other in 2019, including 11% who were less than 50 kilometers apart.

Distance in Kilometers between Buyers and Sellers in Online Gallery Transactions in 2019

While online sales are impacting the auction sector at all levels, they are critically important for smaller auction houses. Auction houses with sales under $1 million made 23% of their sales online in 2019 versus 4% for those with sales over $10 million.

Share of Online Sales (via Invaluable) by Auction House Turnover Level 2014 vs. 2019

HNW Millennial collectors were the most regular users of the online sales platforms, with 92% having bought online. 36% of millennial HNW collectors who purchased online had paid over $50,000 for a work of art or object online, including 9% who had spent more than $1 million.

Frequency of Use of Online Sales Platforms and Instagram by HNW Collectors

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