As the mid-season contemporary auctions and the Armory show in New York carry on, Art Basel and Swiss Bank UBS released its annual Global Art Market Report. The analysis revealed a strong plateau in overall growth of the international art market, highlighting key contributing factors in the global dynamics of the industry for the year of 2019. The report also focused its analysis on the transactional behaviors of high-net-worth Collectors sector, an area of heightened concentration amid stable results for the global fiscal year.
According to the report, global sales of fine art and antiques achieved a total of $64.1 billion in 2019, slightly down from the $67.4 billion achieved in 2018. The international market has seen a return to its 2017 marker, down 5% in total sales from year to year. The U.S., U.K and China, the three top markets contributors in the industry together lead with 82% of the sales total. The U.S. ranks as the highest grossing art market with a total of $23.8B in annual sales for 2019, marking a firm standing from last year with a market share of 44%. China maintained its stable market share of 18% only down 1% from last year, and achieved an estimated $11.7B in sales overall.
Notably, the trade sector remained flat, and auction private sales increased; but global public auction figures saw a drop in 17% overall after steady growth over the past two years. As widely anticipated throughout the year, this decline in worldwide auction sales is mainly attributable to the slimmer availability of ultra-high value lots. Sotheby’s recent announcement of their $1B total private sales achievement this year is telling of the advantage to fixed-price strategy. For emerging investors especially, this transactional option is attractive to those looking to incur less risk and test the market before contending at auction.
Despite the global art industry’s historical resilience in times of economic and political turbulence, Clare McAndrew, the founder of Art Economics notes the tendency of dealers to veer towards more conservative transactional measures “in periods of uncertainty” — emphasizing that “the relative security and confidentiality of private sales” is likely a contributing factor to the recent growth in this sector of the auction world.
Together with UBS and Arts Economics, the survey garnered data around the collecting habits of 1,300 high-net-worth individuals across the U.S, the U.K., Europe and Asia. The findings revealed that the largest developing collector base across the globe were millennials. Among the 61% of those surveyed who have consigned works from their collection, 71% of them were millennial collectors. Overall, the figures show the industry’s audience that emerging ultra-wealthy collectors are both buying and selling apace in the fine art category across varied sale channels.
The international art fair market, which remains a crucial stakeholder in the art world’s transactional flow also reported a plateau in growth. Fairs are known largely to be most valuable in their service toward relationship building among dealers, collectors and industry specialists, and as sites of merging critical discourse. Yet, with a total of 64% of sales taking place during the exhibitions, it is clear that the undercurrent of deal-making amidst social fanfare is impactful for annual targets.