The Future of Online Art Sales: Q&A With Christie’s Live Director – artmarketblog.com
The number of websites that facilitate the online sale and purchase of fine art has increased significantly over the last few years as collectors and investors become more confident in the ability of online art sales portals to provide a sufficiently high level of service, quality art, security and peace of mind.
High-end online art sales portals such as Blacklots, Artnet Auctions, Christie’s, Paddle 8, Saffron Art and Artprice Auctions have emerged as leaders of the online art market due mainly to the reputation and influence of the people involved in the development of these websites.
In this series of interviews, Nicholas Forrest, owner of the Art Market Blog, talks to some of the most influential leaders of the online art market about the future of online art sales and the development of the online art market. In this, the second interview of the series, Michael J. O’Neal, Senior Vice President and Digital Media Director, discusses the Christie’s Live auction model and the state of the market for online art sales.
Background: Christie’s LIVE™, our proprietary online bidding platform. was first launched in July 2006. Since that time, online bidding has become completely integrated into the Christie’s sale process so that clients can select from one of four ways of bidding with Christie’s at any time: in person in our salerooms, on the phone, by absentee bid, or by online bidding in real-time. Adoption of online bidding has risen steadily since its introduction, and we find that many of our clients will switch seamlessly between online and off-line bidding channels, depending on what is most convenient to them at any given moment. With the introduction of our mobile apps in 2009, Christie’s has added another level of convenience for clients who wish to preview property via their mobile phones or iPads or register to bid.
How would you rate your success?
In 2011, the online channel continued to attract new clients and prompt greater interactive engagement. Our website, www.christies.com, welcomed 77% more unique visitors than the previous year. In total 29% of Christie’s bidders transacted online (not including the online-only auction of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection). Christie’s LIVE™ drew 25% more bids than the previous year with two works of art selling online for over the $1 million mark. I think that these statistics are very indicative of the level of success we are currently experiencing.
What has been the most significant sale for you to date?
On September 16th, 2010 Christie’s sold An important and rare bronze wine vessel and cover, Fangyi, late Shang Dynasty, Anyang, 12th-11th century BC from the sale of Sze Yuan Tang Archaic Bronzes from the Anthony Hardy Collection for $3,330,500. Additionally, in December as part of the sales series dedicated to the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, Christie’s held the company’s first ever Online-Only sale which ran in parallel to the live auctions at Christie’s New York. The two-week time-based auction was hugely successful with over $9.5 million in total sales and bidders from 25 countries around the world who competed for 973 additional items from Miss Taylor’s personal collection. In total, more than 57,000 online bids were received, as collectors rapidly drove prices from the $50 starting point up into the thousands.
How does you attract and keep online buyers of fine art?
Christie’s is a place that holds true to its traditional values while embracing innovation – all the time serving the needs and wants of collectors around the world. In the 21st century, Christie’s has lead the way for innovative auctioneering, working to ensure Christie’s expertise and sales are accessible to anyone, anywhere. In July 2006, Christie’s was the first international auction house to give clients worldwide access to bidding in its sale room over the Internet, via Christie’s LIVE™; by 2007 the system was available across all Christie’s salerooms worldwide. Since then, Christie’s have continued to invest in their digital assets, leading to the redesign of Christies.com, the launch of Christie’s iPhone and iPad apps in 2009 and 2010 — as well as Mobile website and Android app in 2010, Social media is also playing an increasingly large part in Christie’s activity, with Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr feeds attracting an ever-increasing number of followers.
What are the characteristics of the main buyers of fine art online?
Our online bidders are an extremely diverse group, including everyone from longtime clients to beginning collectors to some of the trade’s most respected dealers. Many buyers choose online participation due to the convenience of the channel as well as anonymity associated with remote bidding alongside the excitement of the virtual saleroom .
Which countries are the most active with regards to buying art online?
Part of the beauty of buying art online is presenting people from all over the world with the opportunity to bid live in Christie’s salerooms. For that reason, we are proud to have active bidders from a great range of countries, from the United States and the United Kingdom, to quickly growing markets in Brazil, Russia, India and China.
How would you describe the current environment for online art sales?
The current environment for online bidding is hotter than ever, 2011 was a record breaking year in terms of the number of online registrants, which increased 17% on 2010 and the number of LIVE bids, which increased 25% year over year. These numbers represent an actively increasing interest in this platform, which just continues to increase in popularity with every year.
Which mediums are the most popular with online art buyers?
We have active participation in all of our 80 categories, but Watches, Wine, Fine Art, Furniture and Jewelry remains some of our most popular sales for online bidders.
What are your plans for the future?
We look forward to another year of innovation around our existing web and mobile platforms, as well as continuing exploration into ecommerce and social media.
For more information on Christie’s live visit https://www.christies.com/LiveBidding/index.aspx
**Nicholas Forrest is a Sydney/London based art market analyst, art consultant and writer. He is the founder of the Art Market Blog (artmarketblog.com) which offers independent commentaries as well as research and analysis on the current art market, and has recently been published in Fabrik magazine, Verve magazine, Visual Art Beat magazine, Australian Art Collector magazine, Art & Investment magazine and many others. Nic has made several radio appearances (both nationally and internationally) as an art market expert and has received press from the likes of the New York Times, Conde Nast Portfolio and Times of London.
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