Art sales hit record high in 2021


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Paris (AFP)- Art auctions had a record year in 2021 with $17.1 billion (€15.6 billion) in sales as the market continued its rapid growth in Asia and recovered from its coronavirus crisis, Artprice experts said on Monday.

The figure marked a 60% increase from 2020, when sales were hit by the initial disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, and 28% from 2019, according to the company’s annual report.

“The global art market has regained much of its usual dynamism, and much more,” the report said.

It was boosted by a number of high-profile auctions such as Botticelli’s $45 million and Frida Kahlo’s $34.9 million New York sales.

There was also the historic moment when digital artist Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million, the third highest figure ever paid for a living artist.

Most NFTs are sold on crypto exchanges (Ethereum alone sold some $40 billion last year) that are not eligible for Artprice’s tracking of “regulated auctions”.

But it still had some 300 traditional NFT auctions, worth a total of $232 million, putting the medium ahead of photography.

“The health crisis has accelerated the digitization of the art market: 87% of the 6,300 auction houses we follow now have a back office dealing with online sales,” Thierry told AFP. Ehrmann, president of Artprice.

Contemporary art, considered anything created after 1945, represents a growing share of sales, with 20% of the market, up from 3% in 2000.

China, with $5.95 billion or 35% of all sales, now has the largest art market in the world.

The United States, with 34%, was pushed into second place, although its market was even more diverse, selling more artwork at a lower average price than China.

South Korea has seen rapid growth – entering the top 10 with $237 million in sales, up from $58 million before the pandemic.

The effects of Brexit and competition from Hong Kong were felt in the UK art market, which saw sales drop 10% in 2019 to $1.99 billion.

“Hong Kong is asserting itself more and more on the world stage and is directly competing with the English capital”, declared Artprice.

An increasingly active market also means fewer unsold items. A record 31% of items failed to find a buyer in 2021, compared to traditional levels between 34 and 39%.

Gerhard Richter and Banksy remain the best-selling living artists – some 1,186 Banksy artworks were sold in 2021 for a total of $206 million.


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