Online art buying soars as almost three-quarters of collectors go online

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London, UK (9th April 2013) – New research released today by Hiscox has revealed the growing trend for buying art online – with 71% of art collectors surveyed having bought artwork without seeing it in person first but based only on a JPEG image, and a quarter of established collectors1 spending a staggering £50,000 or more in this way.

Hiscox’s Online Art Trade Report examines how the buying habits of art collectors are evolving in an increasingly digitalised world. It explores the confidence today’s art collectors have in buying artwork based on a digital image only as well as the opportunities this brings to galleries and dealers, and its findings are based on interviews with hundreds of influential international art buyers, collectors and galleries operating in the contemporary art market. The report also looks at age, gender and geographical differences in what people are buying and how they are buying it in an online marketplace.

It shows that galleries are responding to the opportunities that online sales represent, with 89% of the galleries surveyed saying they regularly sell art to clients using a digital image only. The report also shows that it is in fact paintings which are most frequently bought online, despite the common misconception that prints and photographs are better suited to online art trading.

Robert Read, Hiscox Global Head, Fine Art, explained: "This research distils the views of collectors, galleries and the greater art community and it tells us that trading online is now an established and accepted way to buy and sell art. Increasing accessibility can only be a good thing, and we are seeing new players coming into the market from a range of territories, at all ages and price points, which is an exciting – if somewhat unexpected – development."

Looking at the findings, as many as half of collectors surveyed aged 65 or over said they had bought art directly online, and 82% said they had bought artwork from a digital image only. This is despite galleries estimating that only a tiny proportion of their online customer base was made up of people aged over 60. It also reveals that men are more comfortable buying art online than women, and men are more inclined to use online auctions than women.

The research also highlights the differences in attitudes to online art buying that exist around the world, with European and American art buyers placing more trust in the online art buying experience than Asians. However, Asian collectors are more likely to spend higher amounts - 38% would be happy to spend £50,000 or more on a single artwork online (most likely at auction), compared to 20% of Americans and 15% of Europeans. While European and American galleries generally sell to a local and regional client base, 40% of the Asian galleries surveyed said the internet is an important way to attract buyers from the US and Europe suggesting they are using their online presence to attract international buyers more so than their European and American counterparts.

Unsurprisingly, the main barriers to collectors when buying art online are related to issues of provenance and authenticity, as well as the reputation of the seller. While the research indicates that more than three-quarters of the galleries surveyed do not currently offer clients the opportunity to complete a transaction online, with little or no interaction with the dealer, it seems traditional galleries are waking up to these opportunities – with just over half of galleries surveyed planning to implement an online sales strategy over the next 12 months. Amongst galleries who are already selling via their website, 72% said their online only sales were to new collectors, signalling a significant opportunity for ‘physical’ galleries with a well established reputation to capitalise on that by providing new routes to purchase – particularly for lower priced works.

Read added: "Whether all areas of the art world will embrace online trading remains to be seen, but our research certainly challenges some of the myths associated with it and gives a clear indication of the appetite that already exists for buying art in this way. The art market is at an exciting juncture and its potential to trade in innovative new ways – as well as via traditional methods – marks an important next-step. The art market has the potential to look very different over the coming years, but the one constant is that the reputation of the seller remains as critical in the online market as it does in the traditional market."


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1Established collectors are defined as those spending over £75,000 a year on art.


About the report

The Online Art Trade report from Hiscox examines how the buying habits of art collectors are evolving in an increasingly digitalised world. It explores both the confidence today’s art collectors have in buying artwork based on a digital image only, and also the opportunities this brings to galleries and dealers. The report also looks at age, gender and geographical differences in what people are buying and how they are buying it in an online marketplace.

The research was carried out by specialist art market analysis firm ArtTactic between December 2012 and February 2013. The findings are based on responses from 101 international art buyers (surveyed through ArtTactic’s client mailing list, Twitter and Facebook), 130 established international art collectors and 58 international galleries operating in the contemporary art market. For the purposes of this survey, we have divided those who enjoy buying art and those art buyers who spend over £75,000 per year on art, allowing us to determine whether the bigger spending collectors’ familiarity with the artists and the galleries would make them more or less likely to buy art online.

About Hiscox

Hiscox, headquartered in Bermuda, is an international specialist insurance group listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:HSX). There are three main underwriting parts of the Group – Hiscox London Market, Hiscox UK and Europe and Hiscox International. Hiscox London Market underwrites mainly internationally traded business in the London Market – generally large or complex business which needs to be shared with other insurers or needs the international licences of Lloyd’s. Hiscox UK and Hiscox Europe offer a range of specialist insurance for professionals and business customers, as well as high net worth individuals. Hiscox International includes operations in Bermuda, Guernsey and USA.

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About ArtTactic

ArtTactic is a London-based art market research and analysis firm that offers dynamic and responsive research and commentary on the fast-paced and ever-changing art market. ArtTactic was founded in 2001 by Anders Petterson. ArtTactic has developed methodologies and analytical frameworks for the art market often used by economists and people in the financial markets. ArtTactic provides a new dimension to art market analysis by combining both qualitative and quantitative research tools with an in-depth knowledge of how the art market works. ArtTactic’s weekly art market research and analysis can be accessed via

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