Auction sales of works of art around the world, particularly driven by contemporary art, reached a new record in 2021, at 17.08 billion dollars, an increase of 60% compared to 2020 and of 28% compared to 2019, according to Artprice’s annual report published on Monday.
During two years, ” the health crisis has dramatically accelerated the dematerialization of the art market. 87% of the 6,300 auction houses monitored by Artprice now have the full back office to conduct online auctions,” says Thierry Ehrmann, at the head of this company, world leader in information on the art market.
With 111,240 lots sold worldwide (artists born after 1945, paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, photographs, prints, videos, NFT, etc.), “contemporary art now accounts for 20% of the market compared to 3% in 2000”he says.
With a total of 5.95 billion dollars in sales, China (mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong) represents 35% of the world art market overall, just ahead of the United States which totals 5.79 billion dollars, i.e. 34% of the market, according to Thierry Ehrmann.
With a total of 1.99 billion dollars, the United Kingdom, on the other hand, recorded a 10% drop in sales compared to 2019. The first effects of Brexit were reflected in the postponement of London sales in Paris, according to this expert.
With 91,699 works sold, France is in second place after the United States, even if it remains in fourth place in terms of total cumulative sales, exceeding for the first time the billion dollars.
The German market retains its fifth place in the world and has attracted Sotheby’s to Cologne.
Among the auction houses, Sotheby’s and Christie’s concentrate 49% of the market with respectively 4.4 and 4 billion dollars. Ketterer is the leading auction house in continental Europe with $97 million in sales and Artcurial the leading French auction house with $91 million.
The very low unsold rate reached 31% for the first time in its history, which “shows that a draconian sorting has taken place with ruthless auction houses in their sales choices and the virtual impossibility of dealing with counterfeiters”according to Thierry Ehrmann.
He explains it by “improving the traceability” of works and the “quality of the technologies used in terms of expertise”.
Gerhard Richter and Banksy are the world’s most successful living artists at auction. 1,186 works by Banksy were auctioned for 206 million dollars, including a new record at 25.4 million dollars.