Hiscox Report Reveals New Online Art Sales Trends

by Carolyn Edlund

The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report was just published. It contains important information for artists who want to sell their work online.


A live art auction at Christie's

Photo courtesy Hiscox Report


Created to examine current trends surrounding the buying of art through different online platforms, UK-based Hiscox has just published its fifth annual report on the state of the market, which offers a glimpse into the mind of collectors and reveals emerging trends. Originally researched for the high-end market, this report also has implications for individual artists who are entrepreneurs.

Although the growth of online art sales is slowing somewhat, it continues an upward trend which is predicted to grow well into the future. The number of platforms where artists can sell online has grown steadily, making for a crowded field that is expected to be winnowed over time. Strong leaders are expected to emerge, and potentially whole new concepts evolve that offer more transparency and increased buying confidence for the online shopper.

Hiscox shares their top five takeaways from this latest report:

  • Online art market sales reach $3.75 billion – up 15%.
  • Based on current growth, the report predicts the online art market to reach $9.14 billion by 2022.
  • Instagram takes over Facebook as the preferred social media platform for consumers to find and buy art. Just over half of art galleries surveyed said they find Instagram a more efficient marketing tool than Facebook.
  • Traditional art businesses dominate online due to their brick and mortar reputation. Online auctions Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Heritage Auctions generated combined online sales of $720 million in 2016, accounting for 19% of the online art market.
  • The conversion of online art buyers remains static for the third consecutive year, signaling that the online art market could be struggling to convert sufficient numbers of hesitant art buyers.

What can the individual artist learn from this newest report?

Understand that this marketplace has its struggles.

Online art sales are in their infancy (only 8.4% of the overall art market), and early adopters often face challenges and frustration. Each artist must be able to evaluate their options and potential online, and most must plan to earn through multiple channels rather than count on making a full-time living through online art sales.

Online platforms can be used as an ancillary tool.

With a 24/7 presence, websites that offer art for sale can be an important part of any artist’s toolbox. Links to the artist’s work on online platforms may be used as an effective follow-up tool after face-to-face meetings with potential collectors. A professionally presented online presence builds credibility and authority for the artist, as it educates and familiarizes buyers with the work.

Share as much information as possible with the shopper.

Transparency and trust is an issue for potential online buyers, and they need as much information as possible, both visual and written, to be moved toward making a commitment to buy.

Lower-priced art sales are the trend.

Considering that customers may be wary, it’s understandable why they may not choose to purchase a high-end work of art “sight unseen” and will more likely take a risk with a lower-ticket item. This knowledge may help artists determine which works to list for sale, or consider the sale of reproductions, in addition to or instead of original works.

This comprehensive 54-page report is available here as a .pdf. They have also created a video about the report, available here.


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  1. Melissa Brauen says

    Thank you for sharing. As a new emerging artist working to set up online it is very difficult to find this type of information. I’ll be following this closely.

    • Thanks for your comment, Melissa. The Hiscox Report is known for it’s high level surveys and published information, and I think you will find this annual report is always useful!

  2. I recently took a class about using and marketing my work via Instagram and had been “on the fence” about whether or not to sign up and start using it. After reading this article, I’ve made up my mind and will do so immediately! It was a very useful report and informative.

  3. Thank you for posting this valuable information. It has given me two new ideas and a different approach as I tweak my web site.

  4. Thank you for sharing,. I found it very valuable. I will reconsider my Instagram marketing strategy.

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