Art Market Overview Q3 2021
While there’s no denying 2021 remains an unusual year, the art world has seen
strong summer sales and the return of in-person exhibitions. Auction houses are
all reporting sale rates that exceed pre-pandemic levels as collectors and dealers
return to confidence levels not seen for almost two years years.
The Art Basel and UBS mid-year review for 2021 reported 51% of dealers surveyed
saw an increase in sales in the first half of 2021 against the same period in 2020. Yet
this recovery has not been even across the art world. The largest dealers, who had
the greatest average decline in sales in 2020, saw the most improvement over 12
months with sales rising an average of 21%.
For the smallest dealers (with sales of less than $250,000) sales were marginally
below H1 2020 with mid-sized dealers ($500,000 to $1 million in sales) down 3% on
Recovery has been especially strong in Asia, where sales increased an average of
18% over 12 months up to the end of H1 2021. On the other hand, European dealers
reported an average decline of 7% over the same period.
The new Knight Frank Investment Index has some insightful detail on the performance of luxury goods. It reports that during 2020 that while art did not perform as well as others in the luxury market, there are good reasons to remain positive about the market:
“For obvious reasons one of the biggest changes was a shift towards private sales
at the major auction houses. The volume of all sales that were publicly auctioned at
Sotheby’s and Christie’s last year was down 26% and 46% on 2019, respectively. The
problem was compounded by the slowing in supply of quality works as consigners
who could afford to wait preferred to sit it out at home.”
The report goes on to say that lockdowns have driven significant growth in demand
for artwork at home and collectors for their own personal interest. According to the
Art Basel/UBS review the majority of dealers are optimistic on growth through the
next year; 91% estimate that their sales would either increase or remain stable, with
only 9% predicting a decline.