This time last year looked bleak

As we rang in 2021, art collectors could have be forgiven for looking forward with pessimism. Markets across the world were on pause and prospects looked poor for the year ahead. However, as the year progressed many sectors of the economy showed just how resilient they were and the art market was no different.


The international art market saw a 36% drop during the first half of 2020 but the period between June that year and June 2021 saw a sudden resurgence with $2.7 Billion in auction sales according to Artprice, driven largely by online sales. By November, the New York auction season saw sales of $2.3 Billion. To call this a bounce back would be an understatement.

Perhaps the most interesting trend of the year was the move to online viewings. As Covid-19 restrictions kicked the idea of in-person purchases into the long grass, online innovation took over. As the auction houses and brokers caught up, the market rebounded hard.

The audience for buyers will continue to expand in 2021 as rapid technological transformation and the embrace of digital channels will remain ever present. The comprehensive set of digital tools clients can now access has not only broken down barriers to entry but reduced the need to view or physically handle works in person prior to purchasing. As a result, the average number of times that a work is seen will be exponentially multiplied.

– Sotheby’s

Contemporary art was the sector which bucked the trend in 2021. While Post-War and Modern art sales remain in the doldrums (drops of 8% and 4% respectively), the first half of last year saw sales of contemporary art soar by 50% compared to 2019- which, if you can remember that far back was pre-pandemic.

So, far from being a bleak year, 2021 was in fact a great year for collectors and investors in the art market. What can last year signal to us about the year to come?

Contemporary Art Continues to Buck the Trend.

Last year we saw the emergence of a new generation of young collectors. Driven, in part, through social media, this new breed of collector pushed not only the usual blue-chip artists to new heights but saw the insta-famous enter the ring as serious competitors.

In line with the new online world, art which translates well into digital formats such as print and photography has surged in value as internet based sales continue to dominate. These changes are showing every sign of permanence in 2022.

As Prices Rise…

The average price of contemporary art grew by a spectacular 130% in 2021. The early indications are that this growth is set to continue through 2022.

Whether these trends continue as the world returns to in-person viewings and sales is tricky to predict, but what we can say for sure is that Digital isn’t going away any time soon.

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