UBS and Art Basel recently released their annual gold-standard art market report, dissecting the performance of the industry over the previous year. We’ve taken the time to summarise the key headlines and offer our opinion on the results:
Global Art Sales up 3%, exceeding pre-pandemic levels
Total global art sales reached an estimated $67.8 billion, bringing the market beyond its pre-pandemic level in 2019. Whilst 2021 saw a strong 31% recovery after a COVID-ravaged 2020, results in 2022 were more mixed, with variations in performance by sector, region, and price segments resulting in more muted growth.
Our opinion: “A 28% drop in year-on-year growth might appear negative on the surface. The bigger picture is the art market has exceeded pre-pandemic levels and continued to grow, even if only by 3%. This is in spite of the global economic volatility that has drastically affected many of the more traditional financial markets.”
High-end of the market continued to drive sales
Much like in 2021, the top end of the market continued to drive growth in 2022. Overall sales in the public auction sector may have fallen by 1% to $26.8 billion, but the works priced over $10 million segment saw growth. Record-setting single owner collections like the Paul Allen auctions at Christie’s were undoubtedly a driving force behind this. Sales amongst dealers fared better than the auction sector, posting 7% growth year-on-year to reach $37.2 billion in sales. Tellingly, sales for those operating at the higher end of the market were significantly stronger than their peers in the lowest tiers.
Our opinion: “Across both the auction and dealer sectors, it’s evident where collectors turned their attention in 2022: high-quality works by historically-respected and market-recognised artists. It comes as no surprise that the lower, more speculative end of the market, particularly from an art investor’s perspective, suffered in the face of the uncertain economic climate. Though, the numbers are also reflective of the rich vein of supply provided by the major single owner collections at auction: top quality works will always fetch premium prices.”
The U.S. retained pole position in global standings; the U.K. proves resilient
Whilst the U.S. remained first in terms of global market share, posting 2% year-on-year growth to hit 45%, the U.K. moved back into second place with its 18% market share. China’s sales fell 3% year-on-year, to 17%, and France remained in fourth place with 7% market share.
Our opinion: “The U.S., and New York in particular, remains the undisputed global hub of the art market. Don’t expect this to change any time soon.
Remarkably, the U.K. posted growth of 5%, seeing total sales of $11.9 billion. This comes as a pleasant surprise given the wider narrative surrounding the potential ramifications of Britain’s decision to leave the EU on the U.K. art market. What is perhaps overlooked is the U.K.’s position as a global cultural centre, rooted in its major public collections and leading art schools rooted in history, which will always carry cachet.
The French market notched a new high of $5 billion in sales; given the number of major galleries opening outposts in Paris, as well as the launch of Art Basel’s debut fair in the French capital, Paris+, this comes as no surprise. The Asian market continued to suffer in the face of continued Covid-measures, don’t view the drop-off as waning interest – Art Basel Hong Kong this year proved that demand remains strong all across Asia.”
NFTs continue to suffer
NFT sales halved in 2022, falling from $2.9 billion in 2021 to under $1.5 billion in 2022. Art-related NFTs suffered in particular, accounting for only 8% of the value of NFT sales on the Ethereum network. Collectible-based NFTs accounted for 67%.
Our opinion: “The booming prices and speculative hype of NFTs has firmly died down, which has seen a pivot in attitudes towards NFTs and blockchain technology within the industry. There is a definite sense that the art market is still trying to work out the full potential of the tech and exactly what it can bring to the market. Moreover, wider subjects of debate – such as the environmental impacts of the art industry – are seeing a reappraisal of NFTs and their value.”