This summary is from findings in the 2015 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report

Hiscox online art sales report

The Global Online Art Market

The value of the global online art market has risen from just under $1 billion in 2013 to an estimated $6.3 billion in 2019

Clearly the trend of buying art online is only in the beginning stages. It seems more and more each day folks are becoming comfortable with the prospect of making larger purchases online, with the expectation of a seamless buying experience and accurate representation through rich images.

Social Media’s Impact on the Online Art Buying Experience

41% of respondents said they discovered an online art sales platform via social media, up from 33% in 2014. Makes complete sense right? Seems just about every buying experience has a social/community element weaved into it now.

Facebook and Instagram are considered to be the most important channels in the art world, boasting hundreds of millions of users a piece. An interesting piece to this study is that Instagram saw the highest “engagement rate” of all social platforms. Now, each social channel has it’s unique purpose and goal, but these 2 (along with Twitter) seem to be the best for artist/show awareness.

Browsing Behavior

From the study’s sample, new art buyers are more likely to visit online art and collectible sales websites than seasoned buyers.

Visitors to art sites are spending more time per visit than every before (57% spent more than 10 minutes, and 30% spent more than 20 minutes) which makes sense as folks are getting more and more comfortable browsing art online.

The takeaway here is to build loyalty and trust with your visitors – Make your site engaging, easy to navigate and have amazing images and content.

What Type of Art are People Buying?

Paintings (Of course)

  • 62% of online art buyers said they had bought paintings online in the last 12 months
    • 30% of these paintings were bought with average prices below $1500
    • 29% of these were in the $1500-$7,000 range
    • 18% of these were in the $7,000-$15,000 price range


  • 22% of online art buyers bought a sculpture online in the last 12 months
    • 31% of these buyers paid on average between $150-$1,500
    • 62% paid between $1,500 and $15,000


  • 35% of online art buyers had bought one or more photographs online in the last 12 months
    • 40% of these buyers spent less than $700


  • 31% have purchased one or more drawings online in the last 12 months
    • 46% of these buyers bought drawings below $700


Limited-edition prints remain the second most popular medium in the online art market, but this is largely driven by the lower end of the market.

  • 53% of online art buyers said they had bought a print in the last 12 months
    • 58% spent less than $700

Why Are People Buying More Art Online?

The study concludes that due to the increasing mediums in which people can browse, share and purchase art, that buyers are actively cross-collecting and buying other collectibles online.

The top reasons collectors are buying more art online

  1. Searchability (80%)
  2. Discovering new art and artists (71%)
  3. Convenience (67%)
  4. Range and diversity of art (66%)
  5. Affordability (46%)
  6. Less intimidating to buy online (45%)

Challenges the Online Art Industry Faces Moving Forward

Art faces a much bigger challenge representing a piece accurately online. The stakes are higher. The more people spend, the more risk they are taking.

So it makes sense that the high-end art industry will see a slower creep into “I’m going to spend a lot of money on something I can’t touch” realm. The things they state as remedies to the challenges of trust, authenticity and reputation:

  • Better information & condition reports
  • 3-D image rotation and ultra-high resolution images
  • Standardization of original and trust-worthy COAs (Certificates of Authenticity)
  • More reviews and feedback can overcome the reputation and trust hurdle


Online art market reaches $2.64 billion in 2014, and likely over 3 billion this year

Investment return is a strong motivation for online art buyers. As many as 63% are motivated by a return on their investment. This is even higher among new art buyers (defined as those who started buying art less than three years ago), as 75% said they were driven by the value potential when buying art online.

Online purchasing is gaining steam. 49% of respondents said they had purchased art and collectibles directly via an online art platform, up from 38% last year, showing significant progress towards mainstream adoption. It is proving particularly popular with new art buyers (defined here as being those who have collected art for less than one year), 24% of which said they had bought art online over the last year. This may be, at least in part, due to the fact that 45% of respondents said they found the online art buying experience less intimidating than buying from a physical gallery or auction house (up from 39% last year).

The bulk of online transactions take place below $15,000. 84% of online art buyers said they bought art online at a price point below $15,000. Of these, 41% of those surveyed said their average price paid was less than $1,500. Among new art buyers, the majority (51%) said the average price for purchases was less than $1,500.

Art buying is becoming like almost everything else. 15% of art buyers preferred the online experience in 2015, compared to 10% in 2014, and 37% had no preference compared to 34% last year. Seems as though art buyers are becoming less dependent on the physical gallery and are ok browsing online or discovering via social media when buying art. Offering a rich online experience seems like a no-brainer.

Social media is likely to play an important role in driving future online sales. 41% of respondents said they discovered an online art sales platform through social media (up from 33% last year). Facebook and Instagram are considered the two most important social media channels in the art world due to high engagement.


Hiscox survey findings are based on responses from 519 art buyers surveyed through ArtTactic’s client mailing list, Twitter and Facebook and Own Art’s mailing list.

That is an awfully small sample size, but it’s what we have to go off of. They did say this sample focused on new art buyers to get a better understanding of how the next generation of art buyers concerns, behaviors and trends.

Also keep in mind respondents in this sample were 57% Europe, and 61% were under the age of 40.

The report in its entirety can be found here.