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)
In the first of a series of ‘MOOC’ lectures to be published online by Stanford University as part of its CS183B class, Sam Altman (@sama), President of Y Combinator describes ‘How to Start a Startup.’ Drawing on nine years’ of advice to startups, Altman focusses on the 30% of practical advice Y Combinator has given to their portfolio companies that’s applicable to any startup. Based on a hugely successful 2012 course on the same topic by Peter Thiel, this year’s course includes a roster of stellar speakers, including Paul Thiel again, Paul Graham, Marc Andreessen and Marissa Mayer. Altman is publishing all materials including slide decks and further reading lists on a GitHub site, and the annotatable full text of lectures is available on tech.genius.com.
The most digital-savvy art businesses are developing business intelligence systems to support their digital sales strategies. In the context of a booming contemporary art market and the fact that one in four of the top lots in this spring’s evening sales were bought by new customers, John Dizard writes in Friday’s Financial Times (Auction houses embracing digital technology to sell to the new global rich):
While the most visible aspect of the houses’ digital revolution may be their online auctions, the most essential is in the systematising and networking of their customer, market and lot information.
Christie’s Steven P. Murphy echoes statements he made in previous months about the imperative driving his business’s digital strategy. Their customers were researching and purchasing art online. Christie’s needed to create “a digital version of the Christie’s experience in a platform-agnostic way.” A key part of Murphy’s digital strategy is an internal customer data intelligence platform called ‘James Map’ which joins up customer information throughout Christie’s and makes it available to Christie’s staff globally through internal applications. Whenever and wherever a customer interacts with Christie’s, all intelligence about them will be at the fingertips of Christie’s staff. FT.com quotes Christie’s Ken Citron, head of IT: “We are a global company now, with global clients. Our having technology allows them to have a consistent experience across the world.”
A fundamental question about digital strategy is behind Christie’s latest digital investments: Is there greater benefit in outsourcing technology and platform provision, or in in-house development (at considerable cost). Sotheby’s partnership with eBay is an example of the former; Christie’s is betting on the latter. Dizard’s article closes with a warning from Murphy about the dangers of disintermediation in digital markets. Perhaps with his publishing background, Murphy is thinking of how publishers have been disintermediated from their market by Amazon, a fate he is determined to avoid at Christie’s. Sotheby’s (and particularly Dan Loeb) will doubtless be watching with interest.
- Auction houses embracing digital technology to sell to the new global rich (FT.com, 19 September 2014)
Today, Sotheby’s formally announces its eBay partnership, and both companies flesh out some detail on their future strategies. Intriguingly, Sotheby’s is described as “a preeminent anchor tenant in the revamped marketplace” – a description which will worry those who consider this move a risk to the Sotheby’s premier brand. Continue reading
In 2013, Dan Loeb wrote that “Sotheby’s is like an old master painting in desperate need of restoration.” Now, a little more than a year later after a bloody boardroom battle and with three seats on the Sotheby’s board, the company is getting ready to make its first big digital play with Loeb and his deputies in the room.
The New York Times reports today that Sotheby’s and eBay have formed a partnership to stream Sotheby’s sales worldwide. It’s tempting to ask is this 12-year old idea the best Loeb can come up with? Both companies worked together on a similar project in 2002 but it was quickly shelved. Perhaps this time around it will be different – the difference being that under Loeb’s influence, Sotheby’s is now more comfortable in loosening its collar and using technology to chase a higher volume, lower value end of the art market. This would be consistent with Loeb’s 2013 statement: Continue reading
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
While its rival Sotheby’s gathers headlines for boardroom dramas, Christie’s CEO Steven P. Murphy has been promoting Christie’s digital strategy in recent weeks. In an interview with Bloomberg TV Murphy set out Christie’s digital plans as well as its 360-degree online/offline approach to ensuring its customers have a “unique and seamless Christie’s experience” via Christie’s online, in their salerooms or through the growing number of Christie’s exhibition spaces..
A number of themes common to any discussion of the web’s impact on art sales run through Murphy’s responses: Continue reading