If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a graphic should speak at least 3,000.
At Artnet News Pro, we’ve worked to make sense of the wild and often obscure art market. Often the clearest way to do this is to track changes and trends with data. Below, we’ve rounded up five of our most revealing charts to demonstrate some of the biggest shifts in the market this year. Let the charts tell you about the evolution of the art industry.
The downturn in the art market was immediately felt in March of this year. As this chart shows, global artwork sales at auction that month ($1.1 billion) were more than a fifth higher than in March 2019 ($940 million) – a year sold out before closing – according to the Artnet Price Database. The biggest difference came at the high end of the market. Fifteen lots sold for $10 million or more in March, compared to just seven in March 2019. The success of the first quarter of the year eased lingering fears among nervous shippers, laying the groundwork for nine months of megawatt sales future.
The changing tastes and growing influence of young Asian collectors in 2021 was undeniable. This chart, which maps total sales of works by Asian and non-Asian artists at Hong Kong auction houses, helps explain why. Over the past 20 years, art buyers from China and East Asia have evolved from non-participants in global trade, to students of Western trends, to global consumers and taste makers apart. whole. A new generation of young Asian buyers – often trained overseas and tapped into the zeitgeist through social media, the internet and international travel – are now setting the agenda by paying high prices for international artists in Hong Kong auction rooms and paying less attention to the historical Asian characters that their parents enjoyed.
This chart offers stark evidence of why auction houses and galleries have become so fascinated with crypto in 2021: in its mid-year results, Sotheby’s reported that around 80% of bidders in its NFT auctions were new to the house. While the company did not provide any data on the total number of participants in these sales, the distribution of paddlers was so skewed that the question of quantity becomes almost secondary. With 80% new faces, even a modestly sized bidding group would serve up an extremely rich set of new relationships to attempt to build on. Whether the Crypto Crowd Will Actually Switch to Buy other assets, including the fine arts, is a question that could be answered in 2022.
As anyone who has witnessed bidding wars for works by artists such as Matthew Wong, Avery Singer and Emily Mae Smith know this year, the market for ultra-contemporary art (our term for works made by artists born after 1974) is pretty much on Fire. And its momentum has only accelerated during the pandemic, as this chart shows. In the first nine months of 2021, $462.5 million worth of artwork in this category was sold at auction. This is an increase of 75% from the year 2020 and 145% from 2019. Remarkably, the size of the market for ultra-contemporary art now rivals that of the old masters, even if the first genre covers art made during less than 50 years. years and the second, more than six centuries.
Asian collectors aren’t just leading the conversation when it comes to contemporary art. As this graph charting auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips over the past decade clearly shows, they are fundamentally changing the auction landscape. Total sales in Hong Kong fell just 3% in 2020 to $1.05 billion, compared to a 43% decline in New York and 38% in London. This year should be a record for the Asian hub. Our own Tim Schneider noted that you should have one thing to remember by looking at this graph: if you want to get a job in an auction house in the next decade, it would be wise for you to learn Cantonese.
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