Do collectors buy art from online viewing rooms?

·2-min read
New York art collectors prefer by far to buy works from local galleries rather than online platforms.
New York art collectors prefer by far to buy works from local galleries rather than online platforms.

While most art galleries invested massively in the online sphere to continue working despite the constraints imposed by the pandemic, a new survey on the New York art market shows that art collectors may not have followed them online. Only 22% of the art collectors surveyed had made a transaction from an online viewing room in the past 12 months.

The Arts Economics and Crozier Fine Arts report was conducted in August, surveying 388 art collectors from New York. This city represents 90% of the USA's art market, as well as 44% of worldwide sales in 2019.

While these collectors spend an average of $759,000 on art every year, they prefer to buy their work in person and not online, despite the fact that art galleries, auction houses and art fairs invested significantly in digital viewing rooms since the onset of the health crisis.

Most collectors (90%) have already visited an "online viewing room" from an art fair to browse what is on sale, however only 22% made a purchase online. Another striking figure: one quarter of these art enthusiasts (26%) assert that they have never made any art transaction from online platforms. Although it is widely used by the artistic community, Instagram is not a must when it comes to New York art collectors looking for their next acquisition. Only 11% of the collectors surveyed had used this social network to acquire new works during the past 12 months.

Is the New York art elite reluctant to use new technologies? Not exactly, according to the Arts Economics and Crozier Fine Arts report. While art fair online viewing rooms didn't manage to attract them, collectors don't seem to have any issue when it comes to buying works of art without having seen them in person as long as they come from an art dealer. Almost half of the respondents (47%) made transactions via e-mail during the past 12 months, while 32% went through gallery online viewing rooms.

"One striking feature revealed in both the collector and art advisor surveys was the very high level of connection and interaction specifically within the gallery sector, in terms of sales, preferences and attendance at exhibitions. All of the collectors and art advisors surveyed had used galleries and dealers to purchase art at some point," note the editors in their report.

Moreover, New York art collectors seem to worry about the future of the art market because of the pandemic. Almost half of the respondents (48%) are more pessimistic about the global art market for the next 12 months. However, they become more buoyant when quizzed on the longer term, with 64% of respondents optimistic about the market resilience over the next two to five years.