Art sales rose 29% last year to $65.1 billion, according to a report from Art Basel and UBS released Tuesday, in a strong recovery from pandemic doldrums driven by a surge in public auctions and online sales.
Public auction sales jumped 47% to $26.3 billion in 2021 as in-person auctions paired with online live streams “were among the most successful,” according to the report.
Despite more in-person events last year, online sales rose 7% to $13.3 billion, accounting for 20% of the total market (that share is 5 percentage points less than in 2020, when online auctions largely replaced live events, but is still more than double the 9% recorded in 2019, the report noted).
Signs of revived market confidence included the return of more notable work to auction, the report says, including the landmark $676 million sale of the first half of the Macklowe collection – which is on track to break the record for the biggest public sale of an art trove – a handful of rare paintings by Jean Michel-Basquiat and “Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel” by Old Master Sandro Botticelli.
$103.4 million. That was the price for the most expensive painting sold at auction last year, Pablo Picasso’s “Femme Assise près d’une Fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) (1932).” The sale was announced in April 2021 was widely seen as a test to gauge the market after the previous year’s slump. The winning bid was nearly double the painting’s estimate.
The annual Art Basel and UBS report this year expanded from the standard territory of auction houses and dealers to include nonfungible tokens. NFTs exploded in popularity last year, with sales of the digital collectibles brokered by Christie’s and Sotheby’s, albeit in “limited values so far,” according to the report. Christie’s NFT sales netted $150 million – including a record $69.3 million for a Beeple work– while Sotheby’s reached $80 million..External sales of art and collectible-related NFTs using ether, flow and ronin blockchains grew to a staggering $11.1 billion in 2021 from just $4.6 million in 2019, according to the report, which used data from NonFungible.com.
What To Watch For
Whether the strong growth continues this year. Last week, Christie’s announced the auction of a rare Andy Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe with a $200 million estimate, which the auction house said was the highest yet for any artwork. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvador Mundi” fetched a record $450 million in 2017 after receiving a pre-sale estimate of about $100 million. Another major auction on the horizon is the second half of the Macklowe collection sale, slated to be held in May.
A $55 Million Picasso Painting Could Signal The Art Market Is Bouncing Back (Forbes)
Real Estate Tycoon Harry Macklowe And His Ex-Wife’s Art Collection Nets $676 Million In First Of Two Auctions (Forbes)
Here’s Why 2021 Was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Year, Decades After His Death (Forbes)
What 2020’s Most Expensive Painting Says About The Art Market (Forbes)