H1 2017 – Global Art Market Report, by

At the global level, the Art Market was in better shape in H1 2017, ending two consecutive years of slowdown : Global art auction turnover posted an increase of 5.3% compared with H1 2016. The recovery was mainly due to the performance of the US market, with turnover up 28%.

Some numbers from the latest report:

  • Global art auction turnover reached $6.9 billion in H1 2017
  • Prices in the Contemporary segment increased by 9.6%
  • With $2.2 billion, the USA overtook China’s $2 billion
  • The UK and France contributed to the recovery, up 13% and 7%
  • Contemporary Art accounted for 15% of global turnover, vs. 3% in 2000
  • A work by Jean-Michel Basquiat (born 1960) fetched $110.5 million
  • The auction unsold rate improved by 2 percentage points versus 2016

According to Thierry Ehrmann, founder and CEO of Artprice, Since 2000, the art market has been functioning with outstanding maturity, resisting the NASDAQ crisis, the nine-eleven attacks, the second intervention in Iraq and of course the unprecedented financial and economic crisis that began in 2007. It has also resisted a significant increase in global geopolitical tensions and the emergence of a negative interest rate environment that hurts savings. During the past 17 years, the Art Market has shown its capacity to adjust to conditions, thus avoiding the kind of meltdowns seen in the financial sphere. It has therefore played a vital “shelter asset” role, without inflating into a speculative bubble.

China and the United States, neck-and-neck

In the soft-power duel between the People’s Republic of China and the United States, the balance has never been so close, with both countries posting almost equal transaction volumes and turnover figures.

In the USA, 38,000 Fine Art lots sold for a total of $2.2 billion over the six month period whereas, in China, 37,900 Fine Art lots sold, generating a total of $2 billion. Every year since the Chinese art market boom (circa. 2008 – H2 2013), one of the two superpowers has taken a significant lead over the other. But for H1 2017, the difference is negligible.

This unprecedented new parity is, however, the fruit of two diametrically opposed developments on each side of the Pacific. While auction turnover climbed 28% in the United States, China suffered a 12% variation, as confirmed by our Chinese State partner, Art Market Monitor of Artron (AMMA).

The rivalry between the two superpowers will be interesting to follow in H2 2017 since China usually generates a higher turnover in the second half of the year (confirmed over the past eight years) whereas the Western market usually posts a lower level of activity in H2.

A new era of prosperity in the West

Sales of Contemporary and Post-War Art appear to have closed out the period of adjustment on the Western market that began in H2 2015. This adjustment was essentially triggered by an inevitable squeeze on revenues caused by the auction companies’ increasing difficulty in bringing together top quality artworks in the Modern and earlier artistic periods.

Fortunately, activity in recent months suggests a new era of prosperity has begun, with the most significant signal coming from the sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1982). The $110.5 million paid for this Contemporary canvas illustrates a profound change in market attitudes: collectors are now perfectly willing to pay equivalent sums for Contemporary and historical (pre-Contemporary) masterpieces alike.

This new dynamic is the result of a gradual transformation of the Art Market. Since 2000, collectors have shown a growing interest in works created during the second half of the 20th century and the early 21st century. So, whereas Post-War and Contemporary Art accounted for 8% and 3% of global auction turnover 17 years ago, they now represent 21% and 15%.


Find the full report HERE!