Chapter 5 Online Sales

Chapter 5 looks at the online art market, and the rapid evolution in sales in 2021. The chapter shows how the dealer sector shifted sales online in 2020 and at the development of online viewing rooms (OVRs). It also shows the growth of online auctions, and provides insights into how HNW collectors have interacted with the market online and through social media.

Despite the contraction of sales overall, aggregate online sales reached a record high of $12.4 billion, doubling in value from 2019.

The Online Art and Antiques Market 2013–2020

The share accounted for by online sales expanded from 9% of total sales by value in 2019 to 25% in 2020, the first time the share of e-commerce in the art market has exceeded that of general retail.  

Share of Online Sales in the Art Market versus General Retail 2016–2020

The share of online sales in the dealer sector, including art fair OVRs, expanded threefold in 2020 to 39% from 13% in 2019. Dealers at all levels showed significant increases in the online component of their sales, with the largest advance by those in the $10 million-plus turnover segment to 47%.

Average Share of Dealer Sales by Value Made Online in 2019 versus 2020 by Level of Turnover

90% of HNW collectors visited an art fair or gallery OVR in 2020, and 72% felt it was important or essential to have a price posted when they were browsing works of art for sale online.

Importance of Visible Pricing when Viewing Art for Sale Online

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