Online art sales from the latest Hiscox Online Art Trade Report.

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The figures are from the eighth annual Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, released last week.

Although the total has increased year-on-year, the rate of growth of online sales has slowed over the past few years.

However, it is predicted demand will increase in 2020 onwards as one of the effects of the coronavirus lockdown has been a surge in willingness of buyers to view and purchase high-value items online.

Despite a slowdown in the overall global art market, 80% of online art platforms that responded to the Hiscox survey said they expect online sales to rise in the next 12 months.

Robert Read, head of Fine Art at insurance firm Hiscox, said: “Last year the story for the online market was one of subdued growth, against a backdrop of a slowing global art economy.”

Digital bidding catalyst

While the traditional art world has undoubtedly been hit by the events of the past few months, early signs suggest Covid-19 will be the catalyst that kick-starts a new wave of online art buying.

Read said: “Digital sales still represent less than 10% of the overall art market, so we wait with bated breath to see how this might change in the months and years that follow.”

Data from some of the largest auction houses operating in the UK found that online-only auction sales by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips reached $370m in the first half of 2020 – 436% higher than the same period a year ago.

Online-only sales accounted for 28.3% of the total auction sales at these three auction houses during the first half of 2020, up from just 1.2% in 2019.

According to the Hiscox report, sales of fine art account for 32% of online sales of art, antiques and collectables, while collectables, including stamps and memorabilia, accounted for a quarter; watches and jewellery have a 23% share; decorative arts 12% and furniture 8%.

Read the full report on Hiscox’s website.