The market for contemporary art clocked up $2.7 billion in sales between June 2020 and June 2021, according to the Artprice annual report – based on results from Fine Art public auctions, covering works (paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, NFTs, videos and installations) by artists born after 1945, and generally regarded as one of the more trustworthy barometers of the art business.
The recovery is all the more robust for being based on an unprecedented volume of transactions with around 102,000 works sold. The numbers certainly justify Artprice’s conclusion that “the market is back at full speed”; the $2.7bn is double the previous year’s sales, and the 102,000 transactions is the highest ever in a 12 month period.
The market also looks to be relatively well balanced, with an unsold rate of 30 percent – a good result on previous years, despite the higher number of works on offer.
Maybe the focus should be on the sheer number of lots on sale rather than the huge total. Some big single transactions contributed to the sum: 363 sales were over $1m (nine of them NFTs), and 26 were over $10m. But 90 percent of the lots went for less than $20,000, and nearly half were less than $1,000.
The report is full of detail on sales for individual artists (Basquiat and Beeple top the charts in their different ways) and maps out a few trends (continued increase in Asian markets for contemporary art: there’s a rise in black art: contemporary art values are outpacing the overall Artprice index – see below). It is available for download here.