The art market has now exceeded its pre-pandemic levels, climbing an estimated 29% year this past year to $65.1 billion in 2021, according to the 2022 Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report. It details growth in every segment of the market, from decorative arts to blue-chip contemporary art, as reported by Bloomberg.
The U.S. continued to lead global art sales, with approximately $28 billion in art sold in just one year. China was in second place, with sales totaling $13.4 billion, followed by the UK, at $11.3 billion. Global sales were $64.1 billion in 2019, according to prior reports, before plummeting 22% to $50.1 billion in 2020.
Aside from publicly available auction data, the report’s authors have relied heavily on self-reported sales from private dealers and collectors alluding that the report’s numbers are possibly not verifiable. Dealer data was compiled through two surveys last year; one resulted in 701 usable responses, the second yielded 774.
Dealers say they sold $34.7 billion worth of art and antiques last year, up 18% from the year before. And 55% of dealers surveyed said they were more profitable than they were in 2020, while 24% reported a decline in profits.
Private individuals were more forthcoming: Some 2,339 high net worth collectors responded to surveys from Arts Economics and UBS Investor Watch.
In 2019, the median expenditure on fine art, decorative art, and antiques was $72,000; last year it was $274,000, an increase of almost 281%. Just over a third of these collectors reported having spent over $1 million.
Given that many auction houses have already reported their 2021 numbers, their success was less surprising but no less encouraging. Global auction sales rose 47% from 2020, according to the report, totaling $26.3 billion.
In terms of future projections, a vast majority of market participants are bullish about 2022. Where 53% of collectors surveyed said they planned to keep spending, and 62% of dealers predicted an improvement in sales.
In light of the fact that we are assessing art sale trends of 2021, it would be remiss to not include NFTs.
The blockchain-based collectibles were included within the report for the very first time, with sales of art-related NFTs totaling $2.6 billion last year. A surprising 74% of high net worth collectors surveyed said they’d purchased an art-based NFT last year, with a hefty $9,000 median expenditure within the category. Beyond the art category, median expenditure on NFTs in general climbed to $24,000.