The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, produced in association with ArtTactic, is becoming an important barometer of how the online art market is developing, as well as an attempt to forecast what the future holds.
In its first 2013 report, Hiscox wrote: “In recent years, technology has disrupted businesses in the music, film and book industry, and it is likely to have a significant impact on the art market too … The real challenge is how the traditional art market engages both with their existing client base and a potential new audience that increasingly wants the option to conduct their business online.”
The 2015 report opens with the following:
The figures speak for themselves. The evolution of online art sales mean that the value of the global online art market has risen from just under $1 billion in 2013 to an estimated $2.64 billion this year. Based on that growth trajectory, we estimate it to be worth $6.3 billion in 2019; no mean feat.
The report highlights the following findings in its Executive Summary:
- Online art market reaches $2.64 billion.
- Investment return is a strong motivation for online art buyers.
- The trend for ‘click-and-buy’ art is gathering steam.
- The bulk of online transactions take place below £10,000.
- Online art buying is becoming an omni-channel experience.
- Social media is likely to play an important role in driving future online sales.
Acknowledging the immaturity of a sometimes over-hyped market which has rapidly growing numbers of venture capital-fuelled art market startups every month, Hiscox warns:
However, there are too many players in the online art market, as one would expect at this stage of the development cycle, and it is still unclear who the winners will be. We will have to wait for a couple more years of mergers, acquisitions, thrills and spills to see who emerges on top.
- The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report (ArtTactic.com)
Through various initiatives run out of its Paris-based Cultural Institute, Google has been extending its reach into the museums sector by building on the infrastructure of projects such as Google Art and Open Gallery, as well as core platforms such as StreetView and YouTube. On December 10, Google announced their latest offering, inviting galleries to take advantage of a museum-specific mobile app platform. According to Google
The platform allows museums to create a simple but powerful mobile app, based on Google’s technology including Street View and YouTube. Without resorting to expensive technical help, museums now can tell their stories.
The press release concludes
The Internet no longer plays just a minor role in diffusing museum knowledge. It has become a major force, allowing museums to expand and strengthen their reach. We look forward to deepening our partnership with museums that see digital media as core to their mission of education and inspiring people about art and culture.
The motivations behind the ‘partnerships’ offered by enormous technology companies such as Google are often called into question. In a 2013 Wired article (See Some Art While You Can — Google Will Eventually Replace Museums) artists João Enxuto and Erica Love put their concerns as follows
Google is single-handedly redefining the public sphere of art spectatorship in much the same way that it is redefining the mapping of public space. As screen interfaces become a primary means for the disembodied spectator to access artworks and as museums give up the responsibility of digitization (of the commons) to a centralized database, Google Art Project will in turn dominate the search for art in the way that it dominates internet search.
This latest venture may be low risk for smaller institutions wanting to experiment in the mobile apps (for Android) space. Google already has a tightly integrated “content ecosystem” (see John Blossom’s 2014 Google update below) and it’s only going to get tighter as Google recoups its investments through monetization. Potential museum partners would be well-advised to pore over the small print and ensure any partnership includes a clear exit strategy.
What lessons could the art market – particularly galleries – learn from the innovative and increasingly second-generation digital projects taking place in many parts of the museum sector? In “Post-web technology: what comes next for museums?” published on The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, Mia Ridge and Danny Birchall list a number of digital experiments and research projects which museums are undertaking, such as:
- Lightweight low-budget mobile tours using WordPress and GPS technology to deliver rich experiences on a limited budget
- Experiments with wearable and augmented technology
- An EU-funded project to investigate embedding digital content in ‘smart objects’
- A shared innovation model for smaller institutions through multi-participant projects
These topics and more will be discussed in November’s UKMW14: ‘Museums Beyond the Web’ conference organized by the UK Museums Computer Group (@ukmcg). Ridge and Birchall’s article concludes with a statement that should resonate for anyone working in the digital art world:
Through projects like these, what we used to think of as a “digital” mindset is starting to become widespread in some cultural heritage organisations. The ethos of user-centred design and rapid iteration associated with digital projects is crossing from the digital realm into the physical environment.
- “Post-web technology: what comes next for museums?” [The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, Friday 3 October 2014]
With the growth of the online art sales and online auctions market, an increasing body of associated academic research is available. A selection of freely available research articles is below. Some findings appear obvious – that reputation is important in online art sales, or that auction prices act as signposts for general art market prices. Others are less so – that repeat auction participants in online auctions lower their average bids over time, or that bidders in offline auctions effectively act as a social network. The value of preserving online auction catalogues is also investigated.
In addition to the articles below, the Duke Arts Law and Markets Initiative (DALMI) also makes a number of papers from 2009-2014 available on its website.
In recent years Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends report for Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (@KPCB) has become ‘an event’ in the technology world. This year’s report was published today at the inaugural Re/code Code Conference. Packed – as usual – with a bewildering range of statistics and graphics, the report is required reading (or more likely skimming) for any technology company developing internet-based services.
Some trends and statistics from the report: Continue reading
An important message in the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2014 is that although the online art market shows continued growth, systemic barriers exist which could risk the market’s future potential.
Hiscox’s analysis (based on research carried out by ArtTactic) suggests the online art market may be undergoing a sudden evolutionary shift similar to that which traditional retail experienced in 2005 – a year considered to be a ‘tipping point’ in the development of retail e-commerce. The growth of the online art market, forecast to rise from $1.57 billion in 2013 to $3.76 billion in 2018, is being driven by a number of factors: the maturity of the web (including the mobile web), increased buyer confidence in making high value online purchases, and high levels of venture capital in sales platforms (Hiscox list $80m worth of investment across a range of online platforms in 2013-14). Continue reading
AXA Art recently published the results of its 2013 international survey of art collectors as Collecting in the Digital Age available for download from the AXA Art website. The report’s foreword by Dr. Ulrich Guntram, CEO AXA ART Group, describes their motivation for carrying out the survey:
We felt at home within the collectors’ community – until the Internet started to change their habits. We became curious and conducted several dozen long, face-to-face interviews with collectors. The issues which emerged from these dialogues – whilst still hypothetical – were used as the basis for a worldwide online survey. It became evident that the worldwide community of collectors is changing, and that such change is partly driven by the Internet.
Among the report’s findings are:
- Close to half of collectors are self-employed or entrepreneurs, whereas only 25% are employees
- Collectors “often live in childless relationships”
- Paintings are at the top of the popularity list of collectables while young collectors prefer new works of art
- “Gut instinct” is the main collecting strategy
In terms of how the internet has changed the respondents’ approach to art collecting, there is a mixed response: