Although no longer able to hold live art auctions, the pandemic has accelerated the move to online sales. Credit: Handout.

While the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on most industries around the world, there are some sectors that have adapted to the new Covid-19 world by making use of technology, The Global Times reports.

Take for example, art auction houses, large and small — investors still seek safe havens for their investments, so the demand has not gone away.

So what to do about this? Clearly, live auctions are out of the question.

While major London-based Sotheby’s has closed its London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Geneva, Milan, Paris and New York offices, throwing their marquee May auctions into doubt, rival Christie’s said it was “working swiftly” to reschedule postponed auctions.

“It’s a threat to all of us, but I do think we’ll get through it,” Giles Peppiatt, director for modern and contemporary African art at fellow London-based auction giant Bonhams, told Agence France Presse.

Although no longer able to hold live auctions, the pandemic has accelerated the move to online sales, the report said.

“We thank our stars that we have online bidding,” said Peppiatt.

“When online sales first started, all the auctioneers thought it would suck the life out of the auctions. But it’s amazing that the thing we feared most at the time is probably going to be our saviour.”

Jen Zatorski, president of Christie’s America, told a media conference call that the company had responded by accelerating the reprogramming of its online sale platform using its own technology developed in the 2010s, the report said.

“The art market and our clients are ready and wishing for this type of digital engagement and transaction,” she explained.

The outbreak poses different challenges for various-sized auction houses, and for different segments of the market, experts said.

“I think small auction houses… will really struggle through this because they just don’t have the… liquidity to ride it out,” Clare McAndrew, CEO of Arts Economics, told AFP.

But Pierce Noonan, chairman and CEO of London-based auction house Dix Noonan Webb, said that nimble smaller firms could thrive.

“Number one: It’s going to be technology,” he said. “This is a defining moment.”

His house, which specializes in small collectibles such as watches and jewelry, is planning to hold a live online sale next week, with the auctioneer presiding from home, if necessary.

A cut of the proceeds will go to Britain’s National Health Service.

“Our website traffic, it’s never been busier,” he added, explaining that people were stuck at home with little else to spend their money on.

Having tangible assets could also become more attractive as other investment options collapse.

A “sad truth is that art survives disaster,” art economics expert Kathryn Brown, from Britain’s Loughborough University, told AFP.

“People continued to buy art during the First World War. You can look at correspondence between the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, writing from the trenches to a dealer in Paris, telling him what art to buy.”

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