The world has changed since the pandemic hit, and so has the art market.
Auction houses have ramped up online sales, while collectors are much more at ease with the idea of buying artworks without seeing them in the flesh.
The phenomenon is such that global online-only auction sales surpassed the record sum of US$1bil (RM4bil) in 2020, according to a new report from ArtTactic. Online-only auction sales increased by 524% to reach US$1.05bil (RM4.24bil), topping this significant milestone for the first time.
Once a marginal part of the market, online-only auctions now account for 14% of total sales worldwide. The sector's leaders, Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips, all banked on new digital formats to make up for the closure of real-world auction houses and exhibition spaces due to the pandemic.
Christie's, owned by the French billionaire businessman, François Pinault, stood out in July with its "ONE" global live auction relayed in sequence from Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York. The marathon event drew sales of US$421mil (RM1.7bil) for Christie's, driven by standout lots including Nude With Joyous Painting by Roy Lichtenstein, Annie by Ed Ruscha and Onement V by Barnett Newman.
A particularly popular format at Sotheby's
In total, over 640 online auctions were held in 2020, particularly during the second half of the year - that's three times more than in 2019. Sotheby's staged a majority of these auctions (69.1%), followed by Christie's (29.6%) and Phillips (1.3%). According to ArtTactic, the average lot price for online-only sales was also up 150.6% over the last 12 months, reaching US$20,693 (RM83,527).
Fine art proved the most popular category for online-only auctions, with a total sales value of US$567.8mil (RM2.3bil) last year, compared to US$94.4mil (RM381mil) in 2019. Collectors' watches and jewellery also thrived, with sales of US$193.1mil (RM779mil) (+ 363.1%). Cars drew sales of US$111.7mil (RM451mil), while design, decorative arts and furniture fetched US$81.4mil (RM329mil) in total sales, reports ArtTactic. - AFP
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