Art collectors move online as pandemic closes fairs

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Global art sales are expected to resume this year if more fairs can open. Keystone / Rhona Wise

Global sales of art and antiques fell by more than a fifth in 2020 to $ 50.1 billion (46.5 billion Swiss francs). With the cancellation of many art exhibitions, online sales doubled to $ 12.4 billion, accounting for a quarter of all sales, according to a report by Swiss bank UBS and research group Art Economics.

This content was published on March 16, 2021 – 11:23

Art Basel, which in 2019 featured $ 4 billion in art, was one of the first events to be forced to cancel in 2020. Organizers have postponed this year’s event from June to September as Covid -19 continues.

Of the 365 art fairs planned for 2020, 61% were canceled, UBS said TuesdayExternal link. The rest were able to organize live events, but many of them went online. Instagram has proven to be a popular method of buying art, with around a third of art collectors surveyed by UBS using this social media channel to make purchases.

China overtook the United States last year as the largest geographic market for art auctions, with a 36% share. China, the United States and Great Britain remain the dominant areas with four out of five auctions taking place in these three countries. When it comes to total art sales through all channels, the United States retained its status as the largest market, followed by China and Great Britain.

‘Inevitable’

The report found that collectors’ appetite to spend their money on art has not diminished, leading 58% of art dealers to predict an increase in sales this year.

The global art market is “populated primarily by small businesses that depend on discretionary shopping, travel and personal contact. The fall in sales was inevitable, ”said report author Clare MacAndrew.

“But the crisis has also given impetus to change and restructuring, the most fundamental shift being the deployment of digital strategies and online sales, which have so far lagged behind other industries.”


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