Art market climbs to $65.1 billion in 2021, according to Art Basel report UBS

Art Basel Hong Kong 2021. © Art Basel
Courtesy of Art Basel

Last year saw a strong recovery in the art market with a gradual return to live sales and events which had previously closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, while online sales continued to grow , according to the sixth edition of The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report. Written by cultural economist Dr. Clare McAndrew, founder of Arts Economics, and published by Art Basel and UBS, The Art Market 2022 presents the results of a comprehensive, macro-level analysis of the global art market in 2021, which grew 29% from 2020 to approximately $65.1 billion for the year.

2021 numbers still lag behind highest art market total, estimates show A peak of $68.2 billion in 2014, notes the New York Times. Citing the report’s methodology (using much of the data from leading European art dealers), Scott Reyburn writes that “some seasoned art world observers were perplexed that Art Basel & UBS reported that dealer sales exceeded auction sales”.

McAndrew noted: “The art market has shown incredible resilience in 2021, with a strong increase in overall sales, despite still very challenging conditions. Dealers and auction houses have adapted with success at a new two-tier system of online and offline sales and events, and the growing wealth of High Net Worth Collectors (HNW) have helped sustain demand at the high end of the market. Rapid growth in online sales has been a key discovery over the past two years, enabling more sales and more continued access to a growing global audience, with many new collectors in 2021. However, as the market regained momentum, we saw that the break in timetables and the switch to digital have hardly restructured the hierarchies of the market, and the high end has started to stand out again, with an even denser concentration of value on a small n shadow of artists and businesses.”

Dr. Clare McAndrew © Art Basel
Courtesy of Art Basel

Key findings from the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report include:

Global sales: After its biggest drop in sales in 10 years in 2020, the global art market recovered strongly in 2021, with total sales of art and antiques by dealers and auction houses reaching about $65.1 billion, up 29% from 2020, with values ​​also surpassing pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Main markets: The US market maintained its leading position, rising slightly to 43% of global sales in value. The Chinese art market was the second largest art market with 20%, while the UK fell to third place and 17%. The U.S. art market rebounded strongly in 2021, with sales rising 33% to just over $28.0 billion. Sales in Greater China also saw a significant increase of 35%, reaching $13.4 billion and moving ahead of the UK market in global rankings. After two years of declining sales in 2019 and 2020, the UK market After falling by more than 30% in 2020, sales in France saw a particularly strong increase in 2021, increasing in value by 50% year-on-year the other at $4.7 billion, taking the market to its highest level in 10 years.

Cheim and Read, Art Basel in Basel, 2021. © Art Basel
Courtesy of Art Basel

Dealer figures: After a 20% decline in 2020, total sales reached approximately $34.7 billion in 2021, up 18% year-over-year but still below the 2019 level. Among all dealers, a majority (61%) reported an increase in year-over-year sales values ​​from 2020, 13% were stable and 26% saw a decline. The largest increase in year-over-year values ​​was recorded in the dealership segment with sales between $5 million and $10 million (35%), while smaller dealerships (with a turnover of cases under $250,000) had the smallest gains (6%). Among all dealerships, 55% were more profitable than in 2020, 21% were about the same, and 24% were less profitable.

Sean Kelly at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021. © Art Basel
Courtesy of Art Basel

Auction figures: Public auction sales of works of art, decorative art and antiques (excluding private auction house sales) reached approximately $26.3 billion in 2021, an increase of 47% compared to 2020, driven by the supply of high-quality works coming to market, as well as an influx of new buyers. Private sales continued to thrive, rising an estimated 32% to nearly $4.1 billion, from the $3.1 billion reported for 2020. The US, China and the UK , which retained a dominant 78% share of public auctions by value, remained the largest international hubs of the auction market. China was the largest market for public auctions with a 33% share, down 3% year-on-year and only slightly ahead of the United States at 32%. Notably, France saw a sharp increase of just over 60% to $2.2 billion, 28% more than before the 2019 pandemic and bringing global market share from 6% to 9% .

Matthew Marks Gallery at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021. © Art Basel
Courtesy of Art Basel

NFT: Outside of the global art market revenue of $65.1 billion, NFT sales skyrocketed across NFT platforms. The value of art-related NFT sales outside of the art market increased one hundredfold in 2021 year-over-year to $2.6 billion, with even greater growth in collectibles, at $8.6 billion. NFT sales have also entered the auction sector of the traditional art market in 2021, but at limited values ​​so far. Christie’s NFT sales totaled $150 million, including the landmark sale of Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days (2021) for $69.3 million in March. Sotheby’s NFT sales reached $80 million in 2021.

Sold online: The online market has continued to grow, with a more moderate growth of 7% in 2021 to reach approximately $13.3 billion. The share accounted for by online sales in 2021 was 20% of total sales, down 5% in share year-on-year, but still more than double the 2019 level (9%). In 2020, dealerships in the $10M+ segment more than tripled their online sales from a 9% share in 2019 to 47% in 2020. However, in 2021 this has been rebalanced as fairs offered sales opportunities. Including art fair OVRs, this segment’s online sales fell 25% to 22% online, while the second largest merchant segment (with sales between 1 million and $10 million) was also down 13%. Leading auction houses have continued to introduce new formats and have invested heavily in the quality and provision of live, online-only auction platforms – the former producing some of the most successful live auctions in the world. year – allowing for a more continuous year. round calendar rather than the traditional seasonal sales cycle.

Art fairs: In 2021, as the fair calendar resumed, even with a reduced number of fairs and limited capacity in some, art fair sales grew at 29% (including OVRs), up 7 % share year over year, but still nowhere near the 43% reported in 2019. With the slow return to the full calendar of events and the continued focus on cost issues, the number of fairs of art at which dealers exhibited in 2021 was still below pre-pandemic levels. Dealers reported having an average of four art fair exhibitions in 2019 and that figure dropped to three in 2020, but these only included one live event and two OVRs. In 2021, the average remained at three, but the ratio shifted back to favoring live events, with two in-person shows and one OVR. Looking ahead, the majority of dealers surveyed (65%) expected their art fair sales to increase over the next 12 months, 11% were unsure and only 9% expected a decline.

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