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The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report: Return to growth for global art market, with China overtaking the UK

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  • Global art market up 12% to an estimated $63.7 billion, after two years of decline
  • China narrowly overtakes the United Kingdom as second largest market; US retains position as the largest market, and regains ground with an increase in sales of 16% year-on-year
  • UBS research collaboration reveals fresh insights on collecting behaviors of US-based high net worth individuals

Zurich/Basel, 13 March 2018 – UBS and Art Basel today published the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, authored by renowned cultural economist Dr Clare McAndrew, and integrating strands of research from UBS and its Chief Investment Office. A comprehensive and macro-level analysis of today's international art market, the report covers key trends in the market in the context of wider economic shifts.

Key findings:

  • Global Sales: The art market achieved total sales of an estimated $63.7 billion in 2017, an increase of 12% on 2016. Much of the uplift in sales in the auction and dealer sectors was at the top end of the market, capped by record prices in the auction sector, including the high-profile sale of the Leonardo da Vinci painting 'Salvator Mundi' for $450 million at Christie’s.
  • Leading Markets: The US was the largest market worldwide, accounting for 42% of sales by value, with China in second place 21% and the UK the third largest market with 20%. 72% of dealer sales in the US were to local buyers.
  • Asia's Growth: The Asian market accounted for 23% of global sales in 2017, and Asian buyers accounted for 15% of dealer sales globally, with Chinese buyers representing the majority at 10%, up significantly from just 4% in 2016, reinforcing evidence of the continued growth of Asian buying power.
  • Auction figures: Sales at public auction of fine and decorative art and antiques reached $28.5 billion in 2017, up 27%, and giving total auction sales a 47% share of the market. The biggest increases were at the very highest end, with the total value of works sold for over $10 million increasing by 148% over 10 years, and by 125% year-on-year in 2017.
  • Dealer Figures: Dealer sales increased 4% year-on-year to an estimated $33.7 billion, representing a 53% share of the market. The most growth in sales year-on-year was in the segment above $50 million. Some US dealers reported additional activity at the end of the year, driven by the Trump administration’s tax reform and the cessation of the availability of 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges for art.
  • Art Fairs: Art fairs continue to be a central part of the global art market, accounting for an estimated 46% of dealer sales in 2017 and aggregate sales were estimated to reach $15.5 billion in 2017.
  • Online Sales: The online art market increased substantially in size over the last five years by 72%, reaching an estimated $5.4 billion in 2017.

The report draws on two key strands of research by UBS and its Chief Investment Office:

  • A survey on the collecting behaviors of US-based high net worth individuals undertaken in collaboration with Clare McAndrew and her team, as part of UBS quarterly Investor Watch, revealed that 35%, an estimated 1 million HNWIs, were active in the art and collectibles markets. 93% of those surveyed reported that they most often bought at prices less than $50,000 and 43% reported that buying through a gallery directly or at an art fair was their preferred channel. 73% felt that a passion for collecting art was an expression of their personality, while 63% were motivated to support arts and culture, with a higher rating for women (71%) than men (59%). There was a particularly strong motivation to support local and national artists and living artists. 86% of collectors surveyed reported that they had never sold a work from their collection, and while 73% of those surveyed had a professional financial advisor, relatively few used an art advisor (8%).
  • The UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017 which illustrates a growth in the engagement in art by billionaires, as evidenced by greater representation on media lists of top collectors globally, the growth in private museums especially in Asia, and the increase in private funding to public museums. Asian billionaires now outnumber their US counterparts and Asian billionaire wealth will potentially exceed that of the US in as soon as four years.

Paul Donovan, Chief Economist, Global Wealth Management, UBS said: "Art can provide insight into our complex and unpredictable world and challenge established ways of thinking. The performance of today's growing and globalized art market is a fascinating reflection of wider economic trends and highly correlated with GDP and HNW populations. Collecting is a passion that we share with many of our clients and alongside our own exclusive art services, this collaboration with Dr Clare McAndrew and Art Basel is a natural fit for our ongoing commitment to the research and analysis of markets and economic data for our clients."

Clare McAndrew, Founder, Arts Economics said: "After two years of uncertainty and decline, the market turned a corner in 2017 with growth in the auction and dealer sectors, as well as at art fairs and online. Despite some remaining political volatility, robust growth in high-end global wealth, accelerating financial market returns, stronger consumer confidence and increased supply led to a much more favorable environment for sales. However, these industry-wide gains were driven by sales at the top end of the market. Away from this premium segment, performance was not all positive, with many businesses coming under pressure. This divergence in performance is a continuing concern, particularly as the majority of employment and ancillary spending comes from the very many other businesses in the art trade below the top tier. To maximize its economic impact, the market needs to be functioning well at all levels."

Noah Horowitz, Director Americas, Art Basel said: "This report provides an unparalleled overview and analysis of the current state of the market. While the strong gains realized in 2017 as well as the field’s ever more global infrastructure are certainly reassuring, its top-heavy nature and rapidly changing dynamics, as captured in this report, have also never been clearer. Dr Clare McAndrew's findings are a must-read for any serious market participant or commentator, offering fresh insight on a wide range of the most pressing issues in today’s art business."

Download the full Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report here.

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