Global Art Trade Rebounds in 2022, Exceeding Pre-Pandemic Levels

KEY TAKEAWAYS
The global art trade rebounded in 2022, exceeding pre-pandemic levels, generating $67.8 billion and marking a 3% increase from 2021 and a 6% increase from the pre-pandemic level in 2019.
The US remained the largest national market in the art trade, occupying 45% of the total value share, with sales increasing by 8% to around $30.2 billion in 2022. The UK replaced China as the second-largest market hub.
Gallery sales increased by 7% from 2021, but smaller galleries faced challenges due to rising operating and logistical costs. Public auction sales reached $30.6 billion, down 2% from 2021, but still 11% higher than the pre-pandemic level in 2019.
Art-related NFT sales saw a 50% drop in 2022, with many collectors shifting their focus away from them. Online-only sales fell to $11 billion, dropping 17% from their 2021 peak of $13.3 billion.
The three major auction houses, Christie's, Sotheby's, and Phillips, achieved a record high in 2022 with combined annual revenues of $17.7 billion, highlighting the strength at the top end of the market.

The global art trade generated $67.8 billion in 2022, marking a 3% increase from 2021 and a 6% increase from the pre-pandemic level of $64 billion in 2019.

This growth was supported by bustling art fairs, successful high-end auctions, and busy in-person exhibition schedules.

However, the 2022 picture for dealers, auction houses, and other players in the trade was one of “muted growth.”

Dominance of the US Art Market

The US remained the largest national market in the art trade, occupying 45% of the total value share, up 2% from last year.

Sales in the US increased by 8% to around $30.2 billion in 2022.

The UK and China ranked second and third, with 18% and 17% of sales, respectively.

The UK replaced China as the second-largest market hub, which fell by 3% in market share from 2021.

Mixed Results for Dealers and Auction Houses

Gallery sales reached $37.2 billion in 2022, a 7% increase from 2021. However, smaller galleries faced challenges as rising operating and logistical costs put increased pressure on dealmaking.

Gallerists with annual sales of $250,000 or less saw a 3% drop in sales in 2022.

Public auction sales reached $30.6 billion, down 2% from 2021 but still 11% higher than the pre-pandemic 2019 level. Private sales at auction houses generated $3.8 billion, down from the $4.1 billion reported in 2021.

Gallery sales reached $37.2 billion in 2022, a 7% increase from 2021. However, smaller galleries faced challenges as rising operating and logistical costs put increased pressure on dealmaking.

Shift in Art-Related NFT Sales

Art-related NFT sales saw the market’s most significant decline in the last year.

NFT sales via online platforms accounted for sales of close to $1.5 billion in 2022, a 50% drop from the $2.9 billion seen in 2021.

Many collectors shifted their focus away from art-related NFT sales.

Changing Landscape of Digital Commerce

E-commerce, which allowed dealers and auction houses to survive the global COVID-19 pandemic, saw a further reduction in 2022 as businesses and collectors began operating on busier in-person schedules.

Online-only sales fell to $11 billion, dropping 17% from their 2021 peak of $13.3 billion but still 85% higher than in 2019.

Online sales represented 16% of the art market’s 2022 sales volume overall, down 4% year-on-year.

Record Year for Major Auction Houses

Despite a slight drop in auction sales from 2021, all three major houses—Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips—achieved a record high in 2022, with combined annual revenues of $17.7 billion. 

This highlights the strength at the top end of the market.

The global art market’s recovery in 2022 demonstrates its resilience in overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic.

However, the mixed results for dealers, auction houses, and the decline in NFT sales reveal a more complex picture beneath the surface.

Craig Miller

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