Contemporary Art, the primary growth driver of the global Art Market

ARTPRICE report 2020

Does today’s art auction universe bear any resemblance to what it was 20 years ago? This is the question artprice asked through this report. In this year 2020, severely shaken by the coronavirus pandemic, they felt it necessary to take a step back in order to broaden our vision beyond the « lost year » by observing the evolution of the Contemporary Art Market not over one year, but over twenty years.

The Contemporary Art Market is not what it was 20 years ago. It has undergone profound structural changes, with evermore artists (from 5,400 artists to nearly 32,000 today) and evermore artworks (from 12,000 lots offered to 123,000) and it has grown and expanded geographically, from 39 to 64 countries active in auctions. It has accelerated with the fluidification of remote transactions and is now the most dynamic and profitable segment of the entire Art Market. In 20 years, the number of auction houses participating in the Contemporary Art Market has almost doubled, the number of specialized sessions has tripled, and the number of lots sold has multiplied by six.

Formerly a very small segment of the overall Art Market, the Contemporary segment now accounts for 15% of the global Art Market. Worth just under $2 billion in auction turnover – versus less than $92 million in 2000 – it has now overtaken both the Old Masters and 19th century. Recently a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat beat the world record for an art auction result in the year 2000 by fetching over $100 million, starkly illustrating the change in the market’s value scales. Basquiat could well cross this price threshold again in the future, and he may not be the only one. Moreover, the works of a handful of our Contemporary creators have already been consecrated as « historical assets »… as important, in monetary terms, as the greatest Modern artists like Monet or Picasso.

Contemporary Art 2000-2020:

  • 6 times more artists and 6 times more lots.
  • A +2,100% increase in auction turnover.
  • Basquiat holds the segment’s world auction record at $110 million (in 2017).
  • Contemporary Art now represents 15% of the global Art Market vs. 3% 20 years ago.
  • China and the United States generate 68% of the global auction turnover.
  • In value terms, Contemporary artworks have generated $22.7 billion since 2000.
  • Over 60% of the Contemporary market is hammered for paintings.
  • Extract from, “20 years of contemporary art at auction” by Artprice.

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