The art’s report card: here it is the Art Market Report 2021

It is fresh off the press (digital) the Art Market Report 2021: the annual report on the art market published by Art Basel e UBS. For the art sector insiders, there are one hundred and eighty-one pages that count as a report card – worldwide – in which the tops and bottoms of the class are announced.

This year, due to Covid, the report has acquired even more relevance and the curiosity for the data it would have highlighted was certainly a lot. The pandemic has upset the dynamics of any market and the art’s has certainly not come out unscathed.


The Art Market Report 2021 – Courtesy di Art Rights


Math is not an opinion

Back in 2019, the market already suffered of strong political, economic and social tensions and, due to various dynamics against it, saw a decrease in value of 5%. With the ill-fated advent of 2020, these uncertainties were amplified with the huge difference that, compared to past crises – such as that of 2009 -, this time the effects involved, transversally, all sectors of the market: from the auction houses, through galleries to private collectors. The figures speak for themselves: compared to 2019, sales in art have seen a net drop of 22%.

Protagonists and survivors

In the art world, there are three leading countries: the United States, China and England. According to the data in the report, the positions remained unchanged. The United States held up with a good 42% of the total value of world sales, followed by China and England with 20% each. Within the dealers’ section, the data show that despite the inevitable decline in sales, these have survived thanks to a smart reduction in higher operating costs. The 28% said they were more profitable than 2019, and 58% of respondents expect growth in 2021.


Global Art Market share by Value 2020 – Courtesy of The Art Market Report


See you online 

One of the most concrete developments and directly “attributable” to Covid is the enormous growth of the online sector, which has reached a record of 12.4 billion dollars.

The auctions, a sector in which China has officially overtaken the United States with 36% of sales versus 21%, produced an annual turnover (2020) of $ 29.3 billion and 22% of sales were made online. The most successful departments are Post War – Contemporary and Modern art. Of course, it is obvious that a similar figure is also due to the physical closure of the auction houses and the consequent impossibility of holding the usual appointments in presence.



Public Auction Market Global Share by Value – Courtesy of The Art Market Report 2021


Art fairs, this is a tough point: more than half have been canceled (61%), the rest is divided between those who are faithful to physical events (37%) and those who, on the opposite, have preferred to go online. According to statistics, the same HNW (High net Worth Individual) collectors preferred to buy through the latter channel as long as the price was public.


Share of Global Art Fair (live events) cancelled in 2020 (365 fairs) – Courtesy of The Art Market Report 2021



Art is social

One of the most interesting data is perhaps the use of social networks as a sales channel. If, in fact, even before Covid they had been definitively classified as the most effective means of expanding the public and therefore the potential clientele, with the advent of the virus they have turned into sales platforms. The report highlights that a third of collectors have purchased art via Instagram.