• gerard van weyenbergh

Online sales, galleries losing ground.

Auction houses are making their mark in the online art market.

According to a survey sponsored by the Hiscox company, 55% of online buyers worldwide from March to September 2020 (during confinement) made their purchases on auction sites. We deduce that 45% of purchases are on galleries or antique dealers' websites and the platforms that bring them together.

It results from a survey carried out by the company ArTactic among 557 collectors, without any precision on the panel's representativeness. Besides, it takes into account purchases and not turnover (turnover). It should be taken as a trend. With these reservations, he signals an inversion of the relationship between gallery owners and auction houses. According to Clare McAndrew's annual review sponsored by Art Basel and UBS, in 2019, galleries and antique dealers accounted for 60% of the art market's turnover when auction houses made 40%. This report is contestable, but it has the merit of continuity over time.

Expected consolidation

It confirms a "feeling": auction houses are in the process of establishing themselves on the "online" market, to the detriment of galleries and antique dealers whose sales either on their site or platforms (such as Artsy ) are increasing but in much smaller volumes. And it may well be that the auction houses are stepping up their lead by regrouping to meet buyers' expectations. The Hiscox study indeed shows that online collectors are increasingly limited to a few sites - when one would have thought that they would have dispersed during containment. They were only 14%, against 28% in 2019, to shop at more than three sites. This is what the French company Interencheres has understood, which has just bought its competitor Auction.fr.

Is this a threat to antique dealers and galleries? No, we consider the weight of online sales, which is progressing but only constitutes 9% of the market according to the McAndrew report as our editorial underlined in Le Journal des Arts no 556 (dated November 27), yes, in the longer term. By leaving the field open to their competitors, they let them build up a war chest that will become essential in tomorrow's economic models: customer databases.

© Le Journal des Arts.