A new report suggests that more and more art collectors are spending vast sums of money on 'sight unseen' online purchases, says Colin Gleadell.
Contemporary art collectors are increasingly skipping the first-hand physical experience of viewing art in galleries, and buying “sight unseen” through internet images, according to a report to be published by Hiscox, the art insurance specialists, this week. Everyone is aware that the internet plays an important part in the art market – as a research vehicle, promotional tool and bidding mechanism at auction – but the report will come as a surprise to those who believe that sight unseen online buying is restricted to low-value, limited-edition prints and photographs, where seeing the actual object before buying is less important than with higher value, unique works of art.
More than 200 international collectors and 56 contemporary art galleries were canvassed by Art Tactic, a company that specialises in contemporary and emerging art market research. Although most galleries surveyed discouraged clients from buying online without personal engagement with the gallery, they confirmed that unique paintings and drawings, as opposed to limited-edition prints and photographs, accounted for 53 per cent of their online sales. In terms of price ranges, the survey found that 26 per cent of collectors had spent £50,000 or more buying a unique work of art either through a jpeg emailed image, an online auction, or a gallery website.
The report also said that online art buying was not being driven solely by the young. In fact, 55 per cent of respondents in the 65-plus age group said they had bought art directly online, and 18 per cent that they would happily spend more than £50,000 online on a single art work. A good example would be Hiscox’s honorary president, Robert Hiscox... more