According to an Art Basel UBS Report, the global art market reached $65.1 billion in 2021

The Art Market 2022, written by cultural economist Dr. Clare McAndrew, founder of Arts Economics, and released by Art Basel and UBS, presents the findings of a thorough and macro-level analysis of the global art market in 2021, which increased 29% from 2020 to an estimated $65.1 billion for the year.

The New York Times observes that the 2021 statistics still fall short of the biggest art market total, which peaked at an estimated $68.2 billion in 2014. Scott Reyburn claims that “several seasoned art market observers were perplexed that Art Basel & UBS stated that dealer sales exceeded auctions,” citing the report’s methodology (using a significant percentage of data from top-tier European art dealers).

Observed McAndrew: “Even though it is still functioning in some extremely difficult conditions, the art market has shown extraordinary tenacity in 2021, with a substantial increase in overall sales. The new two-tier structure of online and offline sales and events was effectively adopted by dealers and auction houses, and the rising wealth of the high-net-worth (HNW) collectors supported demand at the highest end of the market. A significant development over the past two years has been the quick development of internet commerce, which will enable many more new collectors in 2021 as well as increased sales and continuing access to a growing worldwide audience. The change to digital and the break in schedules, however, did little to reorganize the market’s hierarchies as the market picked up steam once more. As a result, the high end started to distance itself once more, with an even denser concentration of value on a select few artists and businesses.”

• Global Sales: The global art market rebounded strongly in 2021, with total sales of art and antiques by dealers and auction houses reaching an estimated $65.1 billion, up 29% from 2020, with values also exceeding pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This followed the market’s largest drop in sales in ten years in 2020.

• Leading Markets: The US market continued to hold the top spot, increasing marginally to 43% of global sales in terms of value. The UK dropped to third place with 17%, while the Chinese art market rose to second place with 20%. In 2021, the US art industry had a strong comeback, with sales rising by 33% to little over $28.0 billion. Sales in Greater China increased significantly by 35% to $13.4 billion, surpassing the UK market on a global scale. The UK market has recovered after two years of falling sales in 2019 and 2020. Sales in France experienced a particularly strong uptick in 2021, increasing in value by 50% year over year to $4.7 billion, pushing the market to its highest point in ten years after a decline of over 30% in 2020.

· Dealer Statistics: After declining by 20% in 2020, total sales are projected to reach $34.7 billion in 2021, up 18% from the previous year but still below the level of 2019.

The majority of dealers (61%) reported rising sales values year over year from 2020; 13% observed stability; and 26% witnessed a fall. The segment of dealers with sales between $5 million and $10 million saw the biggest increase in values year over year (35%), while smaller dealers (with turnover less than $250,000) saw the lowest increases (6%). For all dealers combined, 55% had more profits than in 2020, 21% had same profits, and 24% had lower profits.

• Art Auction Statistics: Sales of fine and decorative art and antiques at public auctions (excluding auction house private sales) were anticipated to reach $26.3 billion in 2021, an increase of 47% over 2020 due to the quantity of high-quality works entering the market as well as a surge in new buyers. Private sales remained strong, increasing by an estimated 32% to nearly $4.1 billion from the $3.1 billion reported for 2020. The top global auction market hubs remained the US, China, and the UK, which together accounted for 78% of public auction sales by value. China had a 33% share of the market for public auction sales, which was slightly higher than the US’s 32% but still down 3% year over year. Notably, France experienced a significant increase of about 60% to $2.2 billion, which is 28% more than pre-pandemic 2019 and increases the market’s worldwide share from 6% to 9%.

According to an Art Basel UBS Report, the global art market reached $65.1 billion in 2021
According to an Art Basel UBS Report, the global art market reached $65.1 billion in 2021

NFTs: Outside of the $65.1 billion global art market turnover, NFT platform sales exploded. Outside of the art industry, sales of art-related NFTs increased by almost a hundred times in value in 2021, reaching $2.6 billion, with collectibles experiencing even more growth, up to $8.6 billion. In 2021, NFT sales started appearing in the traditional art market’s auction sector, albeit at lower prices. The landmark sale of Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days (2021) for $69.3 million in March was among Christie’s NFT sales’ $150 million total sales. In 2021, Sotheby’s NFT sales totaled $80 million.

• Online Sales: The online market grew by a more moderate 7% in 2021 to reach an anticipated $13.3 billion. It continued to rise. In 2021, internet sales accounted for 20% of overall sales, a figure that was down 5% from the previous year but still more than double the level of 2019 (9%). Dealers in the $10 million and up market more than quadrupled their online sales in 2020, going from a 9% share to 47%. However, in 2021 this was adjusted because fairs provided sales opportunities. Online sales in this area decreased by 25% to 22% when art fair OVRs are taken into account, while the next-largest dealer segment (with sales between $1 million and $10 million) also had a decline of 13%. A more continuous, year-round schedule rather than the traditional seasonal cycle of sales is now possible thanks to top-tier auction houses’ continued introduction of new formats and significant investments in the quality and delivery of live-streamed and online-only auction platforms, the former of which produced some of the year’s most successful live sales.

• Art Fairs: As the fair calendar began again in 2021, sales at art fairs improved to 29% (including OVRs), up 7% in share from the previous year, but still fell short of the 43% reported in 2019. This was due to a lower number of fairs and restricted capacity at some of them. The number of art fairs where dealers exhibited in 2021 was still below pre-pandemic levels due to the delayed restoration to the full schedule of events and the ongoing focus on cost issues. In 2019, dealers reported an average of four art fair exhibitions; in 2020, this number dropped to three, but only one live event and two OVRs were included. In 2021, the average stayed at three, but with two in-person fairs and one OVR, the ratio once again favored live events. The majority of merchants polled (65%) forecasted a rise in sales at art fairs during the upcoming 12 months, 11% expressed uncertainty, and only 9% anticipated a decrease.

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