US remains key centre of sales of Post-War and Contemporary Art, while China and US share top spots in the market for Modern Art.

This year’s TEFAF Art Market Report reveals record-breaking sales of USD53.7 billion in 2014, an all-time high. Art Radar brings you some highlights from the report.

Dr. Clare McAndrew presenting the Art Market Report. Photo by Loraine Bodewes. Image courtesy TEFAF Maastricht.

Dr Clare McAndrew presenting the Art Market Report. Photo by Loraine Bodewes. Image courtesy TEFAF Maastricht.

TEFAF Art Market Report 2015

The closely watched TEFAF Art Market Report is widely considered one of the most comprehensive sources of information for worldwide auction sales. Commissioned by The European Fine Art Foundation, organisers of The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), the report is researched, compiled and written by Dr Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist specialising in the fine and decorative art market, who is also the founder of Art Economics.

The latest annual report, released in March 2015, reveals that the art market is at an all-time high, with USD53.7 billion traded internationally in 2014. Below are some highlights and key findings from the report.

A polarised, top-heavy market

Despite the record-breaking 2014 sales value, sales volume has in fact decreased over the past few years, resulting in a top-heavy market with fewer sales happening at higher prices:

  • The total value of the global art market has risen by EUR3 billion since 2007. However, only 39 million transactions took place last year, significantly less than the 50 million in 2007.
  • 48 percent of the global total comes from around 1,530 lots, which sold for more than EUR1 million at auction in 2014 (including 96 lots for over EUR10 million). Together, these lots represented only 0.5 percent of the total number of transactions.

McAndrew comments on the phenomenon in the Report’s press release (PDF download):

[The art market] continues to be a highly polarised market, with a relatively small number of artists, buyers and sellers accounting for a large share of value. However, a promising trend counteracting this to some extent is the growth in online sales, which has encouraged a greater volume of sales in lower priced segments.

Rise of online sales

According to the Report, art e-commerce and internet sales have gained significant momentum, with greater speed of transactions and a wider global reach:

Online sales of art and antiques were conservatively estimated to have reached EUR3.3 billion or around 6 percent of all sales by value, with the majority of sales being made in the range of USD1,000 – USD50,000. The highest ranking art-specific sites in 2014 were, and

Anish Kapoor at Kukje Gallery, TEFAF 2015. Photo by Harry Heuts. Image courtesy TEFAF Maastricht.

Anish Kapoor at Kukje Gallery, TEFAF 2015. Photo by Harry Heuts. Image courtesy TEFAF Maastricht.

Asia to catch up with art fairs

Meanwhile, art fairs continue to be the giants of the art world. The top 22 fairs garnered over a million visitors in 2014. According to the Report,

Sales made at art fairs accounted for a reported 40 percent of all dealer sales in 2014, or an estimated EUR9.8 billion, the second largest sales channel after in-gallery transactions.

The Report acknowledges that the estimated EUR9.8 billion underestimates the impact of art fairs, because many sales take place after the events when dealers follow up with new contacts.

There were at least 180 major international art fairs in 2014, 39 percent of which occurred in the United States, 38 percent in Europe and 12 percent in Asia.

US, China and the UK as top players

The Report’s breakdown of figures reveals the United States as the top player in the global art market, with China and the United Kingdom at second place.

The largest sector in the fine art market in 2014 was Post-War and Contemporary art, defined as artists born after 1910, which the United States dominated. The second largest was the Modern Art sector, defined as artists born between 1875 and 1910, led by sales in China and the United States.

The following are key sector and geographical breakdowns:

  • Distribution of sales by value in the global art market: US (39%), China (22%), the UK (22%).
  • The Post War and Contemporary sector represented 48% of all fine art sale by value, with auction sales reaching EUR5.9 billion, an increase of 19% year-on-year and its highest recorded level.
  • Sales of Modern Art came second, accounting for 28% of the global fine art auction market with sales of EUR3.3 billion.
  • The US was the key centre for sales of Post-War and Contemporary art at 46% of the market by value.
  • China and the US share top place in the Modern Art market: China (30.6%) and the US (30.5%).

Michele Chan


Related Topics: art market watch, market reports, auctions, art fairs, art and the internet, art and investment

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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