In 2014, the global art market had an unprecedented year in sales with revenues reaching USD 66 billion. It is clear that the market has recovered since 2009-2010, when owing to the global economic crisis, sales dipped by 48 per cent. In fact, sales have exceeded the pre-recession peak of 2007 when the highest recorded estimate of the global market was USD 55 billion. While USA remains the largest market, followed by Britain, China has emerged as a force to reckon with over the past decade and in 2010, it even surpassed the US while the latter was dealing with the effects of recession. Even Chinese artists are now commanding prices that can compete with European masters and in 2007, the Chinese market boasted 75 sales above USD 1 million of which the highest bid (USD 8.5 million) went to a work by CaiGuo-Qiang, followed by modern artists XuBeihong (USD 8.2 million) and ChenChengbo (USD 5.8 million). This trend is expected to continue as Asia is now capable of competing with New York and London for the sale of fine arts and high-end bids are no longer limited to Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
While the recession took its toll on markets across the globe, the art industry has managed to recover in just four short years owing to the efforts of leading auction houses to push contemporary art and an increase in investors who are bidding for art from across the globe. Contemporary art promises exceptional yields and has attracted investors from Asia, the Middle East and Russia, who have increased demand and sales five timesas compared to a decade ago and at prices that surpass previous records.
Post war and contemporary art dominate sales: Christie’s sold a Francis Bacon work for USD 127 million (which is among the best sales in its 247-year history) a Jeff Koonsgiant balloon dog was sold for around US$ 42 million, and even works by artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol were sold at record-breaking prices.In addition to new investors and buyers, art fairs are an important factor for the growing global art market. In 2014 alone, there have been over 180 major art fairs, all featuring international work and the 22 top fairs attracted over a million visitors with sales exceeding USD 10 billion – and in the high end-market, over 13 contemporary works worth more than USD 10 million were sold. The price index for contemporary artists peaked in 2013 (15% more than what it was in the boom bubble of 2007) and prices for artists born after 1945 has increased by 70 per cent.
Besides auctions and galleries, a new trend responsible for soaring sales is the growth of the online sector. Buying online is convenient, easy and effective for buyers and sellers and transactions can be made faster. Art sites like Artspace.com and Gagosian.com have recorded sales worth USD 3.5 billion. Despite its reputation for being a highly volatile market, the art sector has probably recovered from the recession sooner than any other industry and grows at hyper speed in terms of sales and revenues as each year passes. What’s more, the gap between east and west has narrowed so that Asians are looking to invest in art from the west (trends show a fondness for experimental ink art) and the west is beginning to relate to art from the east – Christie’s and Sotheby’s now have regular auctions in India and given the success of their sales in the past two years, there’s lots to look forward to in both the Indian and global art arenas.