5 Questions on the Growth of the Online Art Market with Allis Ghim

Oct 26, 2016

As the online art market continues to grow, it’s no surprise that we are seeing lots of new players. Allis Ghim from Bidsquare, a curated online auction platform, shares her insights into this dynamic market; where it’s heading, who’s driving the growth, what online tools are available and how businesses are evolving to keep up.

What have we learnt from the online art market in 2016?
A sizable chunk of the art market is going digital. In 2014, online contributed 6% of the $59 billion sold by art galleries and auction houses. In 2015 while the global art market cooled, online sales jumped +24% to a high of $3.27 billion. This growth continues to persist in 2016 and is projected to grow to $10 billion in just a few years. In 2016 we also saw social media surpass traditional venues such as galleries and museums as a buyer’s primary source of discovery. (See last question below for more on this)

It definitely seems like the art market is shifting to online sales. There are several variations of online models out there, and it remains to be seen which one will persist. But overall, I expect the growth trend to continue as more millennials as well as older collectors realize the convenience and power of discovering and bidding, or purchasing art online.

Are we seeing more collectors buying art online?
Absolutely. Online sales jumped +24% last year, a high of $3.27 billion, and half of online art buyers have stated they expect to buy more art online in the next 12 months. The abundance of unique one-of-a-kind art, in addition to the ease of research and acquisition, makes online platforms an obvious choice for collectors eager to pursue their discovery and purchasing journeys in the most exciting and efficient way possible. If the online art market continues to grow at this rate, it’s anticipated to reach $9.58 billion by 2020. Online has expanded to include not just art, but also antique and vintage furniture, design, jewelry, couture and more. Any category that is fragmented and dominated by smaller businesses is ripe to achieve the efficiencies that online provides and attract passionate collectors. At Bidsquare we are seeing triple digit growth in online bidding activity and sales that close online and fine art is one of our largest categories.

In additional to buying and selling art, how are collectors using the web to grow, protect and maintain their collections?
Increasingly, private art collections live their entire lifespan online. Collectors are using the web to research, create, and develop their collections without the need to travel to remote biennials, fairs, and auctions. They are accessing troves of online information about storage and preservation techniques. And they are using digital and web archives to document their investments, ensuring their integrity for generations to come.

How are dealers adapting with the shift away from the traditional model of buying art?
Dealers are important — they accounted for 53 percent of total art sales by value in 2015 but many dealers are still figuring out how to engage online buyers and participate online. Some dealers have limited online resources and simply lack the technical resources and know-how. Others are loyal to the way they’ve always done business because the traditional model still works for them and they haven’t fully grasped how to established an online presence. We expect this to change, given the power of social media, and online marketplaces and auctions, and their ability to reach high-value audiences and generate sales.

Large auction houses, such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s have developed their own online platforms. Online platforms like Bidsquare are leveling the playing field for dealers and auction houses who may not have the resources or time to develop their own online platform or just want a complementary channel to increase their reach online. By giving them an online presence, Bidsquare enables dealers and auction houses to market and promote their items and auctions to an ever-expanding online audience and compete with larger players. By handling the heavy lifting of technology, online marketing, promotion and sales, a platform like Bidsquare allows sellers to focus on what they do best — evaluating, acquiring, and sharing great antiques and art. From the buyer’s point of view, easy access to great art objects and the opportunity to bid for them real-time gives them a strong compelling reason to turn to online for buying fine art and antiques.

What role is social media playing?
Social media is bringing about a sea of change in the way people view and purchase art. Today, more people encounter art through social media than they do in museums and galleries: 44.3% of young millennials and 33.8% of older millennials say they discover art on social media. Social media and mobile are doing a phenomenal job of integrating art into people’s daily lives, and this increased engagement translates into growth in online sales.

Social media goes hand-in-hand with mobile devices, so we are also seeing a surge in the number of people viewing and purchasing art on their tablets and smartphones. In fact, over 36% of Bidsquare’s traffic now originates from mobile devices and tablets.

Hear More from Bidsquare’s Experts


Allis Ghim

Allis is the President and CEO of Bidsquare. Prior to Bidsquare Allis spent 8 years at eBay in both the US and international roles and 2 years at 1stdibs. Allis first started her career at Goldman, Sachs & Co.

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