The recently published 2018-2022 Sotheby’s Insight Report takes an in-depth look at the art market beyond $1 million to help collectors gain a deeper understanding of the market’s evolution and trajectory. We’ve gathered the key findings you should know when it comes to current trends and insights into the high-end art market.
1. Million-dollar art drives the auction market. Art in the $1m+ range represents a tiny fraction of works sold at auction, yet it makes up the bulk of the fine art market. Between 2018 and 2022, approximately $31.35bn of the $42.13bn spent on art at auction was for $1m+ works.
2. The $1m+ market shows resilience in times of uncertainty. Since 2020, we have seen a strong post pandemic recovery in public auctions for $1m+ artworks. Despite a fall in public auction sales during the 2020 pandemic, private sales of $1m+ artworks peaked the same year and helped to offset the fall in public sales.
3. The biggest growth is in the $20m+ price band. While most high-end sales were in the $1m to $5m price bracket, the biggest growth was for “trophy” pieces in the $20m+ range. In 2022 these works accounted for 45.2% of all $1m+ sales.
4. Most private sales involve $1m+ art. Private sales of $1m+ art at Sotheby’s rose to $1.41bn in 2020. Although this figure decreased in 2022 ($1.05bn), $1m+ art sales are still 30.8% higher than they were in 2019 ($803.5m). Overall, top-tier works accounted for $5.3bn in sales between 2018 and 2022, or 85.9% of art sold privately.
5. Impressionist and Modern art is the leading category. Impressionist and Modern art dominates the $1m+ market, accounting for more than half (53.3%) of sales by value in 2022.
6. The fastest-growing category of $1m+ art is by Young Contemporaries. The number of works by Young Contemporaries – artists born in 1977 or later – selling for more than $1m has soared by 366.7% since 2018. The total value of works by these artists has more than quadrupled, from $36.9m to $194m.
7. Contemporary women artists are gaining ground. More art by contemporary women is breaking the $1m barrier, with sales more than doubling from 2018 to 2022, growing from $221.7m to $461.9m. In 2022, nearly a quarter (24.5%) of $1m+ works were by contemporary women artists, compared with just 11.8% in 2018.
8. Chinese art shows resilience despite a three-year Covid lockdown. Although significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels, sales and the number of $1m+ Chinese Traditional Paintings and Works of Art have remained stable since 2020 despite severe Covid restrictions and economic uncertainty in Hong Kong and China during this period.
9. Asian bidders are on the rise. Asian collectors have made their presence felt in recent years, making up nearly a third (32%) of those who placed bids for $1m+ art at Sotheby’s between 2018 and 2022.
10. More younger buyers are entering the $1m+ market. More younger buyers are entering the top tier market. Although the “Baby Boomer” generation (born 1946–64) were still the largest group (40.6%) of bidders in the $1m+ market in 2022, the number of them is down from 48% in 2018. Meanwhile, Millennial bidders (born 1981–96), have increased from 7% in 2018 to 16% in 2022.
Anders Petterson, Founder of ArtTactic and consultant lecturer on the MA in Art Business, joined a host of panelists including Journalist and Author Georgina Adam, and Sotheby’s Brooke Lampley, David Schrader and Damian Leslie for an insider analysis of the high-end of the fine art market.