1st July 2015

The art of buying

The art of buying

Traditional auction houses and galleries step up to the bar to compete with new online traders in a market that is worth an estimated £1bn.

The days of walking in to a gallery to peruse and buy fine art or spending time at the auction house are not over but a growing trend for ‘sight unseen’ buying means traditional auction houses and galleries are having to rethink their sales strategies.

Many new buyers, in their 20s, and those who may have been intimidated by walking into an art sale are now increasingly browsing and buying online.

The figures speak for themselves - Christie’s online auctions rose from seven in 2012 to 49 in 2014 and Sotheby’s saw a 45% increase in online bidding after its website underwent a redesign in 2013.

Both auction houses have had to respond to competition from new online auction houses such as UK-based the-saleroom.com which hosted 3,147 live auctions and sold goods to the value of more than £74 million.

Research by insurance expert Hiscox reveals a new generation of buyers with a strong preference to buy online - 25% buy without seeing the physical item. The Hiscox Online Art Report 2014 also highlights 39% of respondents find buying art online less intimidating than stepping into a gallery or auction.

But a bricks-and-mortar presence boosts confidence with 90% of online buyers having already bought from a physical space before buying online. Therefore traditional auction houses and galleries have an opportunity to build on their brand and translate it into online business.