While online-only sales have boomed in reaction to coronavirus-induced lockdowns, a new report by ArtTactic reveals that the global art market is still struggling to recoup its losses. 

Total sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips fell from $5.7 billion in the first half of 2019 to $2.9 billion in the equivalent period this year, according to ArtTactic’s “Auction Review – 1st Half 2020” report.

Researchers found that Christie’s was the hardest hit in the first half of 2020, with its auction sales falling 60 percent compared to the same period last year.

Phillips posted a decline of 46.7 percent year-over-year, while Sotheby’s auction sales declined 37.6 percent in the first half of the year. 

However, the global art market is starting to recover from the detrimental impact coronavirus-induced lockdowns had on the auction calendar.

A previous report by Pi-eX found that the same auction houses saw their sales fall by an alarming 97 percent during the month of May.

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Going, going, gone online

These encouraging figures are due to a staggering increase in online-only sales and the introduction of compelling new auction formats to re-engage with potential buyers in the gloom of the pandemic. 

Between the three auction houses, online auction totals have generated $412.6 million in the first half of 2020 marking an increase of roughly 500 percent, from $69 million compared to the same period last year. 

According to ArtTactic, Sotheby’s has proven to be particularly resilient during these past few months of lockdown, with its online sales raking in $305.2 million so far in 2020 — a 976 percent increase from last year’s sales in the same period.

Additionally, Old Masters seem to be least impacted by the digital transformation of the global art market, with a modest decline of 22 percent in the first half of 2020.

“This category is also ripe for the digital transformation that the art market is currently going through,” London-based art market analysis firm ArtTactic comments in its report.

In contrast, global sales of Post-war and Contemporary art declined 34 percent in the first half of the year, and those of Impressionist and Modern art fell 68 percent in the same period.

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