As we close out the 2020 calendar year with the pandemic still spreading in many parts of the world, those of us in the business of appraising art are asking, has the pandemic changed the art market? In this article, I will be attempting to answer this question by sharing my research on the topic. On September 28, 2020 Talk Galleries (A Think Tank for Galleries) hosted an online talk with Anders Petterson who provided insightful information regarding the art market and of which this article is based on.
And for some holiday fun, I will be evoking the spirit of Charles Dickens and reflecting on the art market of past, present and future.
Art Market of Past: Auction Sales 2000 to 2019
This first graph, Art Market Evolution, lists art sales by Christie’s and Sotheby’s for Chinese, Old Masters, Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art for the last twenty years.
This graph reflects an art market that has grown more than six times in the past 20 years. Sales for the category of Post War Contemporary art alone show a sales growth from $300 Million to $4.1 Billion. Even given the current pandemic, the industry overall is in a better and in a more stable position that it was twenty years ago.
Key drivers listed to the right of the graph reflect a heighten interest in the arts as an investment. In addition, the art market infrastructure has significantly grown in the past twenty years with a boom in new Art Fairs, Biennials, Art Galleries and auction houses around the world. According to Petterson, these factors have contributed to a bigger, stronger art market going into 2020. Also listed as a key factor in the growth of art sales is Technology. On the next graph, we take a closer look this driver.
This graph lists art sales from all major online platforms from around the world starting in 2013 to 2019. Online Art Sales reflect a slow growth accounting for only a fraction of overall art sales, only 7% of sales in 2019. There are speculations for why this has been the case, however, the data leads us to conclude there was a reluctance to embrace selling artwork on a digital platform going into 2020.
Art Market of the Present: January to August 2020
The Pandemic showed us how vulnerable the art market is to the physical nature of how art transactions are done. The next graph tells the story of what happened when COVID-19 virus was officially announced as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March of 2020. Art Fairs and gallery events around the world were cancelled and all sales stopped abruptly.
Our final graph, Bad News/Good News, shows a 36% decline in all gallery sales and a 49% in all auction sales occurring the first half of this year as compared to 2019. This significant drop was devastating but the art market quickly adapted and pivoted to selling online making a 255% jump from previous online auction sales. Although the market was impacted by the pandemic, the demand for art remained.
Art Market of the Future: A Hybrid World
As we ready ourselves for the new year and beyond, I remain hopeful. Hopeful for a vaccine and a speedy economic recovery. As a result, the art market will recover from the setbacks of this year. The market is already adapting to overcome challenges via online sales and will continue to evolve in the use of technology as never before.
In my opinion, the digital component of the art world will become much stronger than it has been in the past. It will become a hybrid of both offline and online transactions. Galleries and Auction Houses will become available for clients any time by offering multi-channel experiences, sometimes in person and others online. With this evolution and adoption of technology, the art market will be better positioned to reach the younger generation of buyers who are digitally inclined and more comfortable buying art online than previous generations. This adoption will make the art market much stronger moving forward. In short, the pandemic has changed the art market through the embrace of technology. The aspect of technology will be staying and playing a bigger yet complementary role to what was and in doing so, ensuring the continued growth of the art market.
Elsie Arredondo, ISA AM – Owner and Sr. Fine Art Appraiser
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