Monday, May 02, 2016

Selling Art Online 2016 (Part 1: Key Points)

Hiscox published The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2016 earlier this month.

This is my analysis of key points from their review - in an easy to digest format.

Cover of the 2016 edition of
The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report

What's happened in the last 12 months

What's happened to online sales of art?


Online is a good place to be for artists wanting to sell lower-priced art
  • The online art market has grown by 24% in the last 12 months
  • However it's still small segment when compared to the art market as a whole
  • Sales growth is coming from NEW buyers entering the online market
  • 21% (of those surveyed) in 2015 to 
  • 48% of buyers expect to buy art online again in the next 12 months

Sales value

Online sales are mostly associated with artwork with a value of less than £5,000 with half being priced at under £1,000
  • Online art sales are associated with the lower end of the market  
  • Most online art sales are for $10,000 or less
  • 49% of sales are for less than £1,000
  • a further 30% of sales fall in the £1,001 - £5,000 bracket
  • 80% of sales are for values under £5k
  • only 10% of sales are in the £5,001 - 10,000

What do they buy?

Painters and printmakers are most likely to do well out of online sales (see my chart below)

Most buyers online bought less than 5 artworks in the last 12 months

In the previous 12 months
  • a third had bought one item of fine art 
  • c.50% of collectors bought 2-5 fine art items online
  • photographs and prints (both works on paper) have seen the biggest increase in sales in the last 12 months
In relation to specific media, artists selling online are dealing with people for whom a purchase of fine art is a major event - in terms of frequency of purchase
  • 90% of respondents bought five paintings or less (obviously this is not the same as 90% of paintings)
  • 85% of respondents bought five prints or less - with a further 10% buying between 6-10 prints
  • 95% of respondents bought five drawings or less
  • those buying photography are most likely to collect more works

The good news

  • Online art sales are now more resilient than art sales overall
  • Online art is opening up the market - bringing people in who may not have bought before
  • People feel less intimated buying online compared to 

Issues for those selling art

Online sales are closely associated with buying via mobile devices. So to sell art online, artwork needs to be on a site which displays art well on phones and tablets and social media needs to be used to generate traffic. Picking the right platform to use is critical.
  • There are a number of new online sites which mobilise online sales valued at under £10,000
  • People now routinely buy using mobile devices
  • Social media is very relevant to generating sales
  • The choice of which online platform to use will become critical as competition for collector purchasing power increases
80% of online art buyers use three online platforms or less and 45% of new art collectors use only one

Is online selling competition for traditional methods?


The value of sales via conventional methods is declining - money is moving into online buying

The good news

Galleries are getting better at online sales - but many still have some way to go
  • traditional methods for selling still work (just about)
  • galleries are slowly adapting to online sales - 28% of galleries surveyed now offer clients the option to buy and pay directly online (compared to 22% in 2015)

The bad news

If you sell your art via a gallery, it's essential to make sure your gallery has a good grasp of what's required to generate online sales and also has a decent communication strategy for digital media and 
  • people are still intimidated by upmarket galleries
  • the fact that traditional methods still work means there's less incentive for some galleries to get to grips with online selling
  • 39% of B&M galleries have no strategy at all for online sales!

Part 2 - Online Platforms

Tomorrow I'll be looking at the Online Platforms which generates traffic for artwork and sales.

More about the Art Business

You can find out more about the Art Business on my website Art Business Info for Artists and its brand NEW associated  Facebook Page


  1. Great posting. I've been doing a lot of personal research about what is selling and where, and this backs up my research

  2. Ok so you make a tantilizing comment "80% of online art buyers use three online platforms". What are they? Need backup info there. Fun to read though.

  3. It's NOT three specific platforms.

    What they found is that buyers tend to like just a few platforms and don't browse around all the platforms that are available.

    I'm assuming we'll get a better sense of which are the post popular with buyers (in terms of frequency of use by buyers) in the next report.

    Remember Hiscox is doing us a big favour doing these surveys and publishing the information. I've certainly learned a lot with every report they have published. We aren't going to get all the answers at once - but finding out more each year provides the pathways for fruitful further enquiries.


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