Karolina Prawdzik put together some charts on Frieze sales over the last dozen years. They reveal a fair bit about the state of the Contemporary art market. The chart above maps both overall sales volume for the Contemporary and Italian sales both day and evening against the average prices achieved in Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips’ sales.
You can see that since 2009, the chart has gone up and to the right, as they say, with a brief retrenchment in 2013. This year’s sales were the strongest ever by both measures. (The chart doesn’t include the Lambert sale shared by Christie’s and dePury. The £14.9m would have only pushed the results even higher.)
Beyond the general growth of the market in value terms, the chart shows us that the art market continues to have trouble expanding participation. From 2005 to 2006 and again from 2012 to 2013, the average sale price stayed flat or fell as the sales volume rose or remained steady. In both cases, that means more art was sold at relatively steady values. We can’t assume more art works were purchased by more collectors. But we can see that more works were sold to spread value among a greater number of objects. In that sense, it would seem to indicate a broadening market.
In contrast, we see from 2009 to 2012 and 2013 to 2015 that the average prices rose steeply. The inference one can draw from this chart is that money continues to concentrate in a few works that retain the most value. That becomes even more interesting when you read the sales reports and learn that the Frieze sales were not dominated by big names whose works command the biggest prices.