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Auctions of artworks are becoming popular in Japan as opportunities to participate online are increasing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of infection prevention measures, SBI Art Auction Co. limits the number of on-site auction participants to 30 people, or a fifth of the usual number, from June last year. Meanwhile, the company has made it possible to place bids while watching the auctions online.

This led to an increase in users in their 30s and under, with over 700 new registrations since the introduction of the online bidding.

“It’s convenient because I can participate on my smartphone while on the move,” said a business owner in the 30s age group who uses the service.

In addition to investment purposes, buyers are seeking artworks for private viewing and home decoration amid the coronavirus crisis.

“I want a picture for the background” when participating in online meetings from home, a user in the 20s age group said.

“It’s natural that demand rises as restrictions on travel amid the pandemic lead people to collect artworks that can be enjoyed at home,” said Takahide Kiuchi, executive economist at Nomura Research Institute Ltd.

A key technology behind online auctions is nonfungible token certificates, which record transactions using blockchain technology.

SBI Art Auction has issued over 500 NFT certificates as proof of purchase to those requesting them since April 2019.

The NFT technology is considered highly trustworthy for transactions as it makes falsification very difficult.

“With high bids coming in online, the average successful bid price has risen,” SBI Art Auction director Tomohiro Fujiyama said.

Industry peer Shinwa Wise Holdings Co. fully introduced online auctions in January this year, leading to an increase in participants.

“We’ll create new systems aggressively to make it even easier to participate,” President Yoichiro Kurata said.

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