The online art market grew 9.8% in 2018 to $4.64 billion, according to the latest addition of the annual Online Art Trade Report, which was released by Bermuda-based insurance company Hiscox Ltd. The growth is a drop from 12% in 2017, continuing a slowdown in growth that dates back to at least 2015, when it grew at a breakneck rate of 24%.

Offline vs. online

More art buyers express a preference for buying art online as opposed to offline purchases. 29% of millennial art buyers said they preferred buying art online, compared to 14% a year ago.

55% of the online art buyers surveyed said they were likely to buy more art over the next 12 months, up from 52% in 2018, however, the outlook among younger art buyers (aged 35 and below) is more muted year-on-year, with 56% saying they were likely to buy more art online, compared to 63% in 2018.

The report is underlining one more growing trend. According to the paper, big spenders (collectors who spend more than $100,000 per year on art) are increasingly comfortable browsing and buying art online. The report notes that these big spenders are the most frequent visitors to online sales platforms, with 50% of them visiting multiple times per week.

Social media

Instagram continues to be the art world’s favoured social media platform, with 65% of survey respondents choosing it as their preferred social media for art-related purposes, up from 63% in 2018.


General retail e-commerce grew an estimated 18% in 2018, and online spending habits are also benefiting the online art trade, with 73% of art buyers saying they purchased other products in a similar price range prior to buying art online, up from 68% last year.

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79% of millennial collectors said they bought art more than once in the last 12 months, an increase of 15% over last year’s report. Millenials are increasingly buying art online. 23% of millennial collectors said they bought a work of art online before completing a single transaction IRL at a physical venue like an auction, an art fair, or a gallery. Millennial collectors are the most likely to buy art from their smartphones—32% said they preferred to make online art purchases from their phones, an increase of 8% over 2017.

The global art market

According to the latest addition of The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report sales in the global art market in 2018 reached $67.4 billion, up 6% year-on-year. Online sales of art and antiques reached an estimated $6 billion, up 11% year-on-year and accounting for 9% of the value of the global market.

  • Sales in the three largest markets of the US, the UK, and China accounted for 84% of the global market’s total value in 2018: The US was the largest market worldwide, accounting for 44% of sales by value. The UK regained its position as the second largest art market (21%) and China was the third largest with 19%.
  • Dealer and gallery sales in 2018 reached an estimated $35.9 billion, up 7% year-on-year.
  • Sales at public auction of fine and decorative art and antiques (excluding auction house private sales) reached $29.1 billion in 2018, an increase of 3% year-on-year, and up nearly 30% on 2016.
  • Art fair sales were estimated to have reached $16.5 billion in 2018, a rise of 6% year-on-year, and accounted for 46% of dealer sales.

According to the Art Basel Report online sales of art and antiques reached an estimated $6 billion, up 11% year-on-year and accounting for 9% of the value of the global market.

The authors of the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report in their turn are underlining a  certain slowdown in growth of online sales, but estimate an average future growth rate of 15% annually for the online art market, which would bring its total sales to $9.32 billion by 2024.

Also published on Medium.