Art collecting in a modern pandemic

Saturday 4th September, 2021 - Bruce Sterling

In 2019, Artsy produced “The Online Art Collector Report,” which examined the behaviors of collectors who bought art online as a subset of the broader community of art collectors.

At the time, online sales accounted for just 9% of the entire art market. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most in-person art world events transitioned to digital-only affairs, and purchasing work online became the only way for many collectors to support artists and their galleries, participate in auctions, or attend fairs. Online art sales more than doubled in value year over year to make up a quarter of the art market in 2020. Now, in 2021, every art collector is an online art collector.

Supporting artists and their galleries, participating in auctions, and attending art fairs means, by definition, using digital tools to discover, research, acquire, and sell artworks.

This was especially true over the past year, when health and safety measures brought on by COVID-19 forced most of the art market’s tentpole in-person events, like major auctions and fairs, to happen exclusively online. Artists kept contact with their audiences and reached new ones through social media and other channels. Galleries, forced to close their brick-and-mortar spaces, redoubled their digital efforts or, in some cases, moved online for the first time—holding virtual exhibitions, building online viewing rooms, investing in programming on online marketplaces, and more. These activities are now integral parts of the art world.

To better understand how collectors are navigating the art market online, Artsy surveyed art collectors about their online habits, preferences, pet peeves, and more….