It was a busy year for the art market: auctions and art fairs roared back to life, inflation changed the game, and crypto winter put a chill through the NFT hype cycle.
Through it all, Artnet News Pro was there to capture the ups and downs. Often, the most efficient way to do that was through data. Below, we’ve gathered six of our most revealing charts to demonstrate some of the biggest changes and trends in the market this year.
In the first half of 2021, China’s economy was still enjoying the benefit of its swift COVID response, and spending by its young, wealthy collectors dramatically narrowed the U.S.’s long-held lead in fine-art auction sales. But 2022 saw these competitors go in opposite directions.
- The U.S. market continued its V-shaped recovery by riding a wave of high-profile consignments up, up, and away.
- Third-place China recorded just $927.9 million in total fine-art auction sales in the first half of the year, down 62.1 percent from the first half of 2021.
- Even if we included Hong Kong’s summer auctions (which technically took place in the second half of the year), China’s total would still only reach $1.6 billion, barely more than the U.K.
In the first half of 2022, sales of fine art remained largely flat compared to the equivalent period in 2021. But the composition of the market—and the most popular price points—changed considerably in just one year.
- Sales of works priced at more than $10 million rose by nearly 30 percent between January and June.
- All other price bands saw a decline in total sales of between 6.6 percent (for works under $10,000) and 15 percent (for works between $10,000 and $100,000).
- The top of the market continued to expand in the fall with Christie’s sale of the Paul Allen collection in November, which included an unprecedented five works selling for more than $100 million each.
Perhaps the year’s most hyped NFT project was Damien Hirst’s “The Currency,” which came with the catch that every buyer would have to make a choice: trade in their NFT for the physical work on paper from which it was digitized, or keep the NFT and allow Hirst to literally burn the corresponding drawing.
- Of the 10,000 “Currency” NFTs, exactly 5,149 (51.5 percent) were traded in for works on paper, suggesting a slightly stronger belief that physical art will hold its value better than crypto art over the long haul.
- Hirst himself owns 1,000 of the NFTs, which he chose to keep “to show [his] 100 percent support and confidence in the NFT world”—a meaty thumb on the scales of this experiment.
The art market and the museum world are closely intertwined, so it’s logical to consider how the latter evolved coming out of lockdown.
- The 2022 Cultural Infrastructure Index, an annual report by AEA Consulting that tracks investment in the construction of new or expanded museums, performing-arts centers, multifunction arts venues, and cultural hubs worldwide, captured a historic bounceback in building after the shutdowns of 2020.
- The number of projects finished in 2021 more than doubled compared to 2020, and newly announced projects were up by more than one-third year-over-year.
- Spending told a slightly different story. While investment in projects completed last year reached a record $11.2 billion, funding pledged for new projects reached only $6.5 billion, the second lowest total in six years.
Online art sales boomed during lockdown, when there were few other ways to buy works. As live events returned, the growth of the sector has slowed.
- In the first half of 2022, the auction houses we examined generated $197.6 million in online art sales, down 71.5 percent from 2021.
- Still, that figure is up almost 320 percent from the first half of 2019, suggesting that the pandemic turned up the volume of online trading for good.
- More artwork than ever is being offered online, thanks to increasingly efficient online-sales operations and a new, year-round schedule. Some 9,782 lots sold online in the first half of 2022, 8.7 percent more than in 2020.
Is the ultra-contemporary art boom slowing? The data from the first half of the year suggests so.
- The sector delivered $365.3 million in the first six months of the year, an increase of 6.5 percent. That’s smaller than any other category in terms of year-on-year growth.
- Two factors likely contributed to the slowdown: the cooling of the NFT market and galleries’ and artists’ increased efforts to clamp down on flippers.