Fairs, online sales boost art dealers' outlook

  • A Pair of 19th Century Griffins (c.  1880 Continental) from Mallett & Son, Ltd., London.

    A Pair of 19th Century Griffins (c. 1880 Continental) from Mallett & Son, Ltd., London.

    Mallett & Son

A new report sponsored by the non-profit dealer association CINOA finds that fairs and online business are poised to become the main source of revenue for dealers in the art and antiques trade. E-retail is expected to surpass traditional offline sales by 2020.

Dr. Clare McAndrew's CINOA study reports:

 - Aggregate art sales worldwide in 2010 were approx. 43 billion euros (split roughly in half between auction houses at 21.1 billion euros in sales and dealers with 21.9 billion in sales).

 - There are about 25,000 auction houses worldwide, with Christie's and Sotheby's dominating many sales categories.

 - About 375,000 dealers are listed worldwide, with 5,000 or 2-5% of dealers accounting for half of sales by value. The average dealer does about 60,000 euros in sales, including those working part-time.

 - The dealer sector is more male dominated with 56% male and 44% female while the top-tier auction houses are about 56% female, and second-tier auction houses are roughly split evenly.

 - Collectors and dealers fall in an older demographic: 80% of buyers are aged over 45, 60% were over 55 years old. Dealers are primarily over 50 years old.

 - The rise of the event-driven marketplace has seen a proliferation of dealer fairs. The one-room excitement of fairs competes with auction houses and their competitive energy.

 - Nearly every dealer has a website, but online sales are low at 3-8% of dealers' sales totals. Web use is primarily for communication with clients, or to expose some inventory in a low-risk way to a broad audience. The internet has provided more transparency to the market, including auction prices, but sometimes this information is incomplete (for example, some art price databases show hammer prices and not the price with commission, or they do not show the best woks by an artist on the market).

 - E-retail is expected to grow at five-times the rate of traditional offline sales and its year-over-year dollar intake is expected to overtake offline sales by 2020.

 - A competitive challenge for dealers is the auction houses with their powerful marketing arms, and their increase in private sales.

 - Competition for a dwindling supply of quality non-contemporary artworks and antiques is another hurdle.

For more information, readers can download the full CINOA report for free.

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