Hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, the auction world has had to pivot to digital to survive, a trend that will surely continue.
From online art fairs to AI art, the art world has increasingly gone digital in the last decade to keep up with the growing demand of access at one's fingertips. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the art world’s digitalization, not just in the interest of innovation but also survival. The only place art collectors and enthusiasts can turn is online as the art world has experienced gallery and museum closures, cancellations of major art world events and layoffs across the industry.
In recent months, and even before Covid-19, there has been a shift towards viewing and purchasing art online. According to the 2020 Art Market Report, a collaboration between UBS and Art Basel, $5.9 billion was spent on global online art and antiques sales in 2019. 70% of these global sales were made in the US with an average price of $8,540. And the amount that buyers are spending online is also increasing. 8% of high net worth (HNW) individuals have spent over $1 million on art online, nearly double that statistic in 2018.
It's not just the major auction houses and museums that are investing in a digital future. Auctioneers around the country are seeing benefits and increased sales from online auction software. In 2016, Pennsylvania-based Morphy Auctions invested in Barnebys Auction Software, which offers a user-friendly online auction system that allows customers to have a seamless experience bidding and buying at auction, while the auction house has full transparency with user data and control over design.
"After implementing Barnebys Auction Software toward the end of 2016, our company was selling about 25% of items online," said a representative from Morphy Auctions. "Every year, our online sell through grew and we are now at about 85% of total online sales. With a past average of 40 users bidding online auction, we’ve exceeded 350 users bidding at one time."