In the run-up to the Art Basel fair in Basel from 24 to 26 September, UBS and Art Basel are publishing a study titled "Resilience in the Art Dealers Sector - Mid-Year Review 2021" by Arts Economics, a specialist research and consultancy firm. The study presents an analysis of the global art dealer sector in the context of the persistent covid-19 pandemic period.
Nevertheless, the art market is doing well.
Sales for the sector as a whole grew by 10% in the first half of 2021. 51% of art dealers surveyed were able to report an increase in sales compared to the same period in 2020. Asian dealers reported the strongest improvement in sales, up 18% on average, including a 6% increase for Greater China companies. The most challenging environment was reported by merchants in Europe, with an average decline in sales of around 7%. On the bright side, art dealers are optimistic: 91% believe that their sales will increase or remain stable over the next 12 months, while only 9% expect a decline.
A market driven by millennials
Another positive point is that collectors remain strongly committed to the market. In the first half of the year, median spending on art and antiques by the surveyed wealthy collectors rose by an average of 42% to $242,000 from $170,000 in 2020.
This increase was largely driven by millennial collectors who had the highest spending overall, at $378,000, which was also twice as much as in 2020. At the same time, Generation X and Baby Boomers spent an average of $118,000 and $100,000 respectively. In 2021, wealthy millennial collectors purchased an average of 15 works of art compared to 2 obtained by the baby boomers demographic.
The study also notes that female collectors are spending more than their male counterparts and that their spending has increased at a much faster rate since 2019. In the first half of the year, women's spending increased by just over a third to $410,000, more than double the level of men, which grew by just 9% in 2020 to $163,000.
The study shows that the appetite for digital art is growing. 16% of the works held by the surveyed wealthy collectors were digital, film and video art. In the first half of 2021, digital art accounted for 12% of median spending, while paintings, sculptures and works on paper accounted for 31%. When asked what type of art they were interested in purchasing over the next 12 months, 48% of the collectors surveyed were interested in purchasing digital art.
Online sales channels account for 33% of all dealer sales, and even 37% if we include the online viewing rooms of art fairs. Compared to 2019, online sales have thus doubled in volume. The largest share of online sales were made via dealers' own online channels (websites, social media or email). Online sales to new shoppers increased, accounting for 38% of all online sales by value, with a further 25% to existing customers buying online for the first time in 2021.
However, dealers and galleries were the most commonly used sales channels, with 82% of the surveyed wealthy collectors buying through a dealer in the first half of 2021.
Finally, in keeping with the times, 77% of the surveyed wealthy collectors are considering sustainable options when it comes to buying art and managing their collections.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.