Online art market sales up 4% to $4.82billion in 2019

But Covid-19 is already transforming the market 


London, UK (7 July 2020) – Online art and collectible sales grew 4% in 2019 generating an estimated $4.82 billion. Down from 9.8% in 2018, this is the fourth consecutive year the annual growth rate has fallen.

As many traditional UK galleries and museums re-open their doors following months of government-imposed restrictions, the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 20201 suggests that despite a year of subdued growth in 2019, the pandemic could be an important turning point for online sales.

Further research conducted for Hiscox throughout the lockdown period2 unveils a growing sense of optimism about the future of digital art sales, with the majority (80%) of online art platforms expecting sales to increase over the coming 12 months and 65% expecting the impact of the pandemic (on the online market) to be both permanent and transformative. 

Looking specifically at auction houses, the report estimates online-only auction sales by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips to have generated $370 million in the first half of 20203, which was 436% higher than the same period in 2019. Online-only sales accounted for 28.3% of the total auction sales at these three auction houses during the first half of 2020, up from only 1.2% in 2019.

Commenting on the findings, Robert Read, Head of Fine Art at Hiscox said: “Last year the story for the online market was one of subdued growth, against a backdrop of a slowing global art economy. While the traditional art world will undoubtedly be hit by the events of the past few months, early signs suggest Covid-19 could be the catalyst that finally kick-starts buying activity online. Digital sales still represent less than 10% of the overall art market, so we wait with bated breath to see how this might change in the months and years that follow.” 

Key findings from the report:
  • Online art and collectible sales generated an estimated $4.82 billion in 2019 - up 4% from 2018. Growth in this market has steadily declined in recent years; from 24% in 2015, 12.5% in 2017 and 4% in 2019;
  • Fine art accounts for 32% of online sales, significantly ahead of watches and jewelry (23%), decorative arts (12%) and furniture (8%). Other collectables’ such as stamps and memorabilia now account for a quarter (25%) of all sales, and as traditional auction houses in particular look to attract younger collectors, we expect to see a greater focus on this segment moving forwards;
  • Despite a slowdown in the overall global art market, 80% of online art platforms expect online sales to increase in the next 12 months;
  • The impact of Covid-19 appears to have accelerated online sales so far, with online-only auction sales by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips estimated to have generated $370 million in the first half of 2020, 436% higher than the same period in 2019;
  • When questioned about the longevity of these changes, 65% of online sales platforms said they expected the pandemic to have a permanent and transformative impact on the sector;
  • Consolidation is still widely expected, with 67% of platforms believing the online market will be dominated by a few global players within the next five years; 
  • Some 63% expect existing art market operators such as galleries to emerge as the big online players while 48% expect an outsider (such as a start-up or tech giant) to disrupt the market;
  • Over half (56%) of online art platforms (down from 62% in 2019) believe the online art market will remain collecting-specific, with certain platforms dominating specific segments (such as photography, prints, furniture or design).

The findings form the first part of the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2020, with parts two (online art consumer trends) and three (online art tech services) scheduled for release later this year. 

You can read the full report by visiting


  1. The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2020 is the eighth annual report of its kind. The research was carried out by specialist art market analysis firm ArtTactic during February and March 2020 via interviews with senior management and CEOs from 44 online art trade platforms.
  2. This year’s report also includes further research to track the impact of Covid-19. conducted via interview with 38 online art platforms between March and May 2020.
  3. From 1 January 2020 to 28 June 2020.

For further information please contact:

Katie Bergin, Senior Communications Manager, Hiscox: [email protected] / +44 (0) 207 448 6459

About The Hiscox Group
Hiscox is a diversified international insurance group with a powerful brand, strong balance sheet and plenty of room to grow. We are listed on the London Stock Exchange, headquartered in Bermuda, and currently have over 3,100 staff across 14 countries and 35 offices. Our products and services reach every continent, and we are one of the only insurers to offer everything from small business and home insurance to reinsurance and insurance-linked securities.

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 been a pioneer in developing industry research and analytical tools for the global art market. 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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