Artnet has released its numbers for the global fine art market in 2015 so far. The sales are off by 6% around the world but that doesn’t really tell the story. China has dropped by 30%, but the US is up 19%. That concentration in New York, where lot values are much higher, has led to a rise in the average lot value around the world even as sales have slowed:
Fine art auction sales results for the first half of 2015 were greatly influenced by the performance of Q2. As of June 30, 2015, market value had contracted 6% in comparison to 2014; however, the supply of lots was considerably more limited, with 17% fewer artworks making it to the auction block. Demand was also slightly down from last year, as was the sell-through rate, from 65% to 62% worldwide. Overall, during the first half of the year, 141,200 fine art lots were sold, totaling $8.1 billion (down from $8.6 billion in 2014).
The decline reflects weaker auction performance in four of the top five fine art markets: the United Kingdom, China, France, and Germany. China, in particular, witnessed a dramatic decline of approximately 30% in value ($700 million), largely impacting global auction market trends. The United States, however, witnessed a significant increase (+19%) in value sold, with a strong upswing in Q2 (+21%). As a result, the United States ranked first in terms of sales at $3.4 billion—42% of the total global market. The United Kingdom and China (including Hong Kong) claimed the next two spots, respectively.
What does this mean? The art market has been contracting, not surprisingly, in places that are experiencing economic slowdowns. But the global flight of cash to high value assets in the US and the UK, along with growing economic strength in the US, is giving us the impression of an art market at breakneck speed.