In the beginning of 2020, most of the world went under lockdown because of the Corona virus outbreak. Galleries and auction houses had to close their doors and postpone sales. When restrictions eased, we noticed a significant increase in online bidding which required salerooms to be more accessible for the online and absentee bidder.
Pre lockdown viewings and auction rooms used to be busy with potential buyers, but this has all changed now. Instead, salerooms are shifting towards a more virtual concept where through a video call, clients can access the lots offered for sale. During the actual auction chairs are placed with 2 meters apart and visits are by appointment only.
Pawnbrokers have seen an increase in items received by post rather than face to face meetings. At first, we saw a decline in art secured lending, but as we came out of the first quarantine period, and summer approached, pawn shops eased restrictions and we saw a rise in art lending.
How have this affected the art market? Is online the way forward and a new normal?
With no vaccine in the immediate future, sale rooms have perhaps permanently changed the way they carry out auctions. They have made it easier for customers to leave phone and absentee bids or use their online services to secure a piece of jewellery, a watch, or any object offered for sale. With modern technology most auctions are live streamed and therefore no longer a need to come to the actual sale. As the number of people allowed in the room during a sale is limited, and several areas still under travel restrictions bidding from home has become a new normal. As a result, many auction houses have increased their total sale and seen an increase in bids and new registrations. Most recently Michael Jordan’s used Nike trainers sold for a record price of £460,000 and four of Jean-Claude Biver’s Patek Philippe watches hammered a total of almost £6.4 million. Many pawnbrokers have now also changed to online friendly applications and contracts resulting in pawnbroking loans are easy and quick to process without client contact.
The online trend has transformed the art industry no doubt. As we no longer need to be present in the room during the actual sale, we can participate in several auctions at the same time without having to travel anywhere. The downside is, we will no longer be able to experience the atmosphere in the room during an auction, and we will no longer be able to see who our bidding competitors are. If this is the new normal, we may no longer need the ‘high street jewellery pawn shop’ or an actual auctioneer to hold sales and the art world will be changed forever.