The move is designed to attract more new customers to its online-only sales who will eventually migrate to other auctions at the firm, it is hoped.
Sotheby’s said 45% of buyers at online-only sales were new clients. It had held 16 such auctions in the previous year and is on track to double that in 2017.
The average price of a lot sold in an online-only sale has risen to nearly $10,000, with prices often exceeding $50,000.
"Attracting first-time buyers"
David Goodman, Sotheby’s executive vice president of digital development and marketing, said: “Online-only sales have emerged as our best tool for attracting first-time buyers and we see those new clients subsequently participating in other areas of our business.”
He said approximately 20% of the new clients in online-only sales have subsequently taken part in live auctions so far this year.
The change will take effect at its contemporary art online sale on September 16.
The firm has also updated its fees across the board.
As of November 1, Sotheby’s buyer’s premium for live auctions (excluding wine sales) will be 25% up to and including $300,000, 20% from $300,000 to $3m, and 12.9% above $3m in New York. In London it will be 25% up to £180,000, 20% from £180,000 up to £2m and 12.9% thereafter.
Previously it was 25% up to $250,000, 20% from $250,000 up to $3m, and 12.5% thereafter in New York. In London it was 25% up to £175,000, 20% from £175,000 up to £2m and 12.5% thereafter.