The explosion in ‘art tech’ startups in recent years will result, Adam believes, in a reckoning by investors who “will begin to tire of the huge ‘burn’ in some of the high-profile sites and will want to see some profits.” For many startups, acquisition is the end game, and Adam rightly predicts consolidation in the art market technology startup scene in 2014.
She expects “online to continue to grow in the volume market, and for more transactions to be completed online at the mid-level” helped in part by eBay’s return to the fine art sales market “for the third time.” eBay and Amazon as players in the online art market will also have a negative impact on smaller players.
Interestingly, against the trend of citing technology as a democratizing force which brings transparency to an often opaque marketplace (see last year’s Saatchi Online interview) Adam writes that
The increasing number of sales of art online muddies, rather than clarifies, the size and nature of the transactions. A new online site, ArtWide, promises complete anonymity for buyer and seller, so the whole transaction is completed with neither knowing who the other is.
Adam remains – adamant? – about how unlikely it is that online art sales will make inroads in the higher end of the market – a market segment which grabbed headlines in the last quarter of 2013. On the prospect of seeing a $100m Picasso sold online in 2014, Adam simply says: “Forget it.”
Read more: What will 2014 bring? (The Art Newspaper 31 December 2013)
A recent study by statisticians at George Washington University and the University of California, Irvine, estimated that as many as 91 percent of the drawings and small sculptures sold online through eBay as the work of the artist Henry Moore were fake.
The Giacometti Foundation and the Picasso estate view the problem of bogus art sales as so acute that this year they helped found a new association, the International Union of Modern and Contemporary Masters, to promote legal protections “against the circulation of counterfeit works of art.”