Citibank has released a report on the global art market. The report features several points of view on various aspects of the market around the world. Benjamin Mandel’s article was the first one we read. He looks forward to 2030 and predicts that the market, which grew at a 13% annual rate over the last 15 years will see declining growth to around 9% over the next 15 years.
China’s emergence and the growing of the top end of the market were the features of the last 15 years. Mandel doesn’t see either continuing to have the same effect going forward. But that’s not entirely a bad thing, he writes. And his conclusions, below, are worth thinking about in the context of this New York sales cycle which seems to recapitulate the same themes:
In many ways the art market has mirrored the global economy, for which the early 2000s was an exceptional period. China joined the WTO in 2001 and deepened its global engagement which, in turn, dramatically altered the landscape of international commerce. Demand from China and its seemingly insatiable investment appetite drove a massive global commodity cycle. Today, the Chinese economy faces the difficult task of pivoting away from an economic model that is widely viewed as unsustainable in the long run. So, too, does the Chinese art market face the fact that years of break-neck growth have run their course. Similarly, the trajectory of top art prices as a reflection of widening inequality must also eventually settle, though economists remain far from agreed on the path of the latter.
While it might seem inherently undesirable for the market to cool off, silver linings abound. The Chinese market’s impending growing pains are symptomatic of a market that has come of age. And a cooling of top auction prices would provide a heathy rebalance from the upper deciles to the middle of the market, which would be a significant positive for the broader industry. Finally, while there does not seem to be any other obvious candidate – like China or inequality – waiting in the wings to give the market its next big leg up, participants in the art market always maintain the option of just enjoying the aesthetics of the thing itself and not worrying too much about that.