As usual, this third edition of the artnet Intelligence Report offers our expert breakdown of the latest trends and developments in the art market—but it also offers something different. To celebrate artnet’s 30th anniversary, we have taken an in-depth look into how the art world has evolved over the past three decades from a boutique business sector into a full-blown global industry.
Once the modestly sized province of passion-driven dealers and connoisseurs, the art market today exists as an interconnected global network dominated by multibillion-dollar corporations and profit-minded investors. In this issue, we expand upon the data through a roundtable with top collectors, an interview with artnet’s own founder Hans Neuendorf, and a survey of other art-market powerbrokers to explore how the art world became an industry—with all the positive and negative connotations that word, which conjures a smoke-belching factory, conveys.
- A grand total of $9.1 billion was spent on fine art, decorative art, and design at auction in the first half of 2019—down 13.5 percent from the equivalent period one year ago.
- Weakness at the top of the market is driving this slump: Total auction sales of works over $10 million dropped by 35 percent in the first six months of this year compared to the first half of 2018.
- Figuration has officially displaced abstraction as the most desirable style of new art. Not one of the top 10 works sold at auction by ultra-contemporary artists in the first half of this year was abstract.
- The Brooklyn-based artist KAWS outsold Jean-Michel Basquiat, the far more established graffiti artist-turned-market phenomenon. Work by KAWS generated $70.6 million at auction in the first six months of 2019, compared to Basquiat’s $65.6 million.
- The UK saw its auction sales plummet 24 percent in the first half of the year, while China only experienced a 10.5 percent dip, suggesting that the prospect of Brexit is having a more catastrophic effect on the market than the US-China trade war.
- The gap between Christie’s and Sotheby’s has narrowed for the first time in several years, with both auction houses posting just over $2 billion in sales in the first half of 2019.