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The online art market is booming with sales up by 15 per cent to $3.75bn in 2016, with the traditional bricks-and-mortar auction houses, such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, powering ahead of their digital-only rivals.

Overall, online-sales now represent 8.4 per cent of the almost $50bn global art market – up from 7.4 per cent in 2015. Estimates from the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2017 suggest digital sales of paintings, sculptures and other artworks could reach $9.14bn in just four years’ time.

Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Heritage Auctions, the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer, accounted for a combined $720m of online sales in 2016, with Christie’s alone reporting an 84 per cent spike in online-only sales.

The vast majority of online art sales are pieces worth less than $5,000, with competition for business increasing at the lower end of the market, the report noted.

Robert Read, head of art and private clients at Hiscox, said:

The online art market has continued to grow despite the backdrop of a slowing global art market. Established global brands such as Sotheby’s and Christies are starting to [get] to grips with the challenge of transforming a bricks-and-mortar business into a multimedia business.

The dealers continue to struggle online; maybe they are making enough elsewhere. None of us know for sure in the gloriously-opaque art market, but my bet is that the temptation to bury your head in the sand when you are not tech-savvy is all too great.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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