Global art market reaches USD 63.7 billion in 2017, with dealers taking the lion’s share

The Art Market 2018 report, published today by Art Basel and UBS, shows a 12% increase in sales, and China superseding the UK as the world’s second largest market.

The art market has rebounded after two years of decline, with the total sales  reaching USD 63.7 billion in 2017. The United States remains the largest market worldwide, followed by China, which has superseded the United Kingdom and is now in second position.

Gallery sales were up by 4%, reaching USD 33.7 billion, or 53% of the total sales volume. Driven by headline-grabbing lots such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, sales at public auctions increased by 27% year-on-year, reaching USD 28.5 billion. Much of the increase was at the top-end of the market, with other segments showing a more mixed performance.

The top three markets - the US, China, and the UK - accounted for 83% of total sales by value. At 42%, the US is the undisputed global market leader. China is now just ahead of the UK at 21% versus 20%. This is explained by the presence of the major auction houses in New York, London, and Beijing. The Chinese auction scene remains the key driver of the Chinese market. Furthermore, China maintains the lion’s share of the Asian market by value. Together, Japan, South Korea, India, and Indonesia account for 23% of the market, compared to 33% for the EU.

In terms of galleries, the sector saw an increase of 4% year-on-year, to an estimated USD 33.7 billion. However, this result varies between sectors: while 59% of survey respondents saw growth, 13% remained stable, and 28% recorded a decline. Small to medium-sized galleries with an annual turnover of USD 500,000 experienced an average decline of 4%, while galleries with annual turnover between USD 1 million and USD 10 million saw growth rates of 9% year-on-year. Art fairs account for just under half of gallery sales, and galleries attend on average five fairs a year.

Online art sales have reached a new high of USD 5.4 billion in 2017, or 8% of the global art market by value. The internet has provided new ways of reaching new clients for traditional brick-and-mortar businesses via third party online platforms. Galleries reported that 45% of online buyers were new to their business in 2017. Forty per cent of clients buying online at top-tier auction houses were also new customers. Online buyers remain cautious, however, as most sales tend to occur below the USD 15,000 range.

Read our interview with Art Market Report author Dr Clare McAndrew  here

The Art Market Report is available to download here