The Global Art Market Grew to $67.8 Billion in 2022, Exceeding Pre-Pandemic Levels

The global art market totaled $67.8 billion in 2022, growing by 3% year-over-year and reaching its second-highest level to date, according to The Art Market 2023, authored by Dr. Clare McAndrew, Founder of Arts Economics and published by Art Basel in partnership with UBS. The report can be downloaded for free here.

This put the market slightly above its 2019 pre-pandemic level, but growth was not as high as expected, hampered as it was by political and economic instability, intensifying war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates, supply chain problems, and the increasing possibility of recession in major markets. Strict lockdowns in China throughout 2022 further impacted the market’s recovery in the region.

Detail of a work by Ju Ting presented by Galerie Urs Meile at Art Basel in Basel 2022

Here are seven key takeaways from The Art Market 2023.

1. Global art sales grew, exceeding 2019, pre-pandemic levels

Global art sales increased by 3% year-on-year to about $67.8 billion, with the market exceeding its pre-pandemic level of 2019, when it was $64.4 billion. Bustling art fairs, successful auctions at the high end, and busy in-person exhibition schedules contributed to a rising market.

2. The US remained the largest market, and reached its highest level to date

The US remained the top market, commanding 45% of global sales by value in 2022 and growing by 8% year-on-year to reach $30.2 billion, its highest level to date. Significant growth at the high-end of the auction market, along with some growth in dealer sales, propelled the increase. The US market experienced one of the most robust recoveries of all global markets after a 25% dip in sales in 2020.

3. The UK and China traded places in 2022, ranking second and third among global markets respectively

The UK resumed its position as the second-largest market, with 18% of global sales, climbing from third in 2021, while China fell from second into third in 2022, dropping to 17%. The UK saw solid growth of 5% to $11.9 billion in 2022, overcoming intense economic and political hurdles. This was the second year of growth, but the country has not yet reached its pre-pandemic level of $12.2 billion.

With widespread lockdowns considerably hampering market activity, China had a worse 2022, with sales declining by 14% year-on-year to $11.2 billion. Excluding 2020, this was the country’s worst year since 2009, with some art fairs and auctions cancelled, cut short, or postponed.

4. It was a good year for many dealers, with sales reaching their pre-pandemic level

In the main, it was a very positive year for dealers, though not for all. Dealer sales climbed 7% year-on-year, reaching the pre-pandemic level of $37.2 billion. Nearly two-thirds (61%) reported an increase in sales year-on-year, and a majority (58%) even saw an improvement in values over 2019. About a quarter (24%) reported a year-on-year decline in values. The return of art fairs resulted in dealers making a growing percentage of their sales at in-person events. These increased from about a quarter of sales in 2021 (27%) to more than a third in 2022 (35%), though the number still fell shy of the figure from 2019, which was 42%.

5. While digital commerce far outpaced pre-pandemic levels, it dropped considerably in 2022

E-commerce, which enabled dealers and auction houses to survive the global COVID-19 pandemic, saw a further reduction in 2022 as businesses and collectors began to operate on busier in-person schedules. However, the market has not completely returned to its pre-pandemic division of online and offline sales. Online-only sales fell to $11 billion, dropping 17% from their 2021 peak of $13.3 billion, though still 85% higher than in 2019. Online sales represented 16% of the art market’s 2022 sales volume overall, down 4% year-on-year.

6. Auction sales dropped slightly from 2021, but all three major houses had a record year

Sales in the auction house sector, including public and private sales, dropped by 2% year-on-year to $30.6 billion. This was still an advance of some 11% on the pre-pandemic year of 2019. The strength at the top end of the market meant Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips each achieved a record high in 2022, with combined annual revenues of $17.7 billion.

7. Art-related NFT sales fell by nearly half in 2022

Sales of art-related NFTs on platforms outside the art market dropped considerably in 2022, to just under $1.5 billion, falling 49% year-on-year after peaking at close to $2.9 billion in 2021. This still was more than 70 times the sales volume in 2020 of just over $20 million. Art-related NFTs dropped in value by much more than other kinds of digital collectibles, accounting for only 8% of the value of NFT sales on the Ethereum network in 2022, compared to 67% for collectibles-based NFTs.

Brian Boucher is a writer and art market commentator based in New York City.

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