Things that shaped the art market in 2022

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In the wake of the pandemic, the art world had high hopes that 2022 would be the time the market bounced back. In a way, that was what we got. Several large collections were put up for auction. In particular, the sale of the Paul G. Allen collection broke all records in November. Five of her high-profile works have sold for over $100 million each.

We’ve rounded up some of the art market trends that have shaped the art market in the previous year.

NFTs rise and fall

Yuga Labs, Bored Ape Yacht Club #197, 2021

At the beginning of 2022, it looked like NFTs were among the main art market trends and poised to take over the world. In March, the founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club Yuga Labs acquired CryptoPunks and Meebits, creating an NFT giant. Decentralized art crowdfunding kicks off: In February, Pak’s watch was sold to a group of collectors organized through the DAO for a record $53 million in Ethereum.

The bulk of contemporary art sales came from blockchain-based artworks.

However, by May, much of the luster of blockchain-based work had been dwindled by the huge drop in the price of cryptocurrencies.

Collecting with a purpose

Salman Toor, 4 Guests, 2019

Salman Tour’s 4 Guests (2019), featuring four lowered figures against his signature polka dot color, was one of the highlights of Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale on November 17, 2022. The lot sold for $856,800, almost four times its estimate.

A month earlier, Stanley Whitney and Gagosian had sold one of the artist’s iconic abstract paintings through Artsy Auctions to support the Art for Justice Fund and Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.

While these commitments to a broader goal are still only part of the economic activity of the art market, contemporary art sales and the speed and strength with which the players in the art world acted indicated a desire to specifically acknowledge the issues that matter to its audience.

It should be noted that these charity auctions eventually coincide with a growing number of collectors who are focusing their purchases on marginalized communities such as BIPOC, women, or LGBTQ+ artists.

Abstraction ascends

Jadé Fadojutimi, There exists a glorious world. Its name? The Land of Sustainable Burdens, 2020

Perhaps it was the pandemic-induced need to see people, things, and the environment again. Maybe these portraits were just in trend.

In any case, figuration was everywhere in 2021. Faces, objects, and recognizable scenes peeked out from art fair kiosks, online galleries, and auction catalogs. However, in 2022 the art market trends changed greatly.

For example, at Gagosian’s Frieze stand in London, works by abstract artist Jade Fadojutimi, each worth £500,000 (US$614,000), were sold out before the fair even opened.  2022 also saw critically acclaimed exhibitions for Bernice Bing, an underrecognized Abstract Expressionist artist; and James Little.

Young artists reach new heights

Flora Yuknovich, Warm, Wet N` Wild, 2020

In 2022, Rococo artist Flora Yukhnovich, born in 1990 and represented by Victoria Miro since 2021, set a new giant sales record: $3.1 million at auction. It has never been clearer that the cutting-edge market is booming.

At the auction, young artists reached prices that would have been unheard of at the beginning of this century. There seemed to be no limit to the amounts that passionate collectors would pay, and galleries’ waiting lists seemed to run into the hundreds. That’s why, even with the spiraling prices, works by young artists were at the top of art market trends.

The pass-through rate of ultra-modern art at auction was about the same or even higher than the rest of the market.

Surrealism surges

Jane Graverol, Le Démon Mesquin, 1952

Although Surrealism Unlimited opened in late 2021 at the Met, its influence reverberated throughout 2022. The international cross-generational exhibition has moved to Tate Modern, offering a reimagining of the movement and its lesser-known supporters.

By the time the Venice Biennale opened in April, the frenzy of the surrealists and contemporary surrealist work had reached new heights.

The contemporary art sales of both Sotheby’s and Christie’s were organized around this movement.

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