Value of global art market sales eases 5% year-on-year to $64.1 billion in 2019.


Number of global art market transactions hits decade-high of 40.5 million in 2019.

Zurich, 05 March 2020 – UBS and Art Basel today published the fourth edition of the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, authored by renowned cultural economist Dr Clare McAndrew, and integrating strands of research from UBS. A comprehensive and macro-level analysis of the global art market in 2019, the report covers key trends in the market in the context of wider economic shifts. Download the full Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report at ubs.com/art.

The key findings include:

  • Global Sales: Sales reached an estimated $64.1 billion in 2019, a decrease of 5% on 2018, with contraction primarily at the top end, returning the market to just above its 2017 level. In contrast the volume of global sales reached its highest level in a decade, growing by 2% year-on-year to an estimated 40.5 million transactions. 
  • Leading Markets: The US retained its position as the largest market globally accounting for 44% of the market share, stable on 2018. Despite uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the UK held its position as the second largest market with a share of 20% (a decrease of 9% year-on-year). China remained the third largest art market at 18% (a decrease of 1% year-on-year).
  • Global Wealth and Art Buyers: The report includes the results of a survey of 1,300 high net worth collectors carried out in 2019 by UBS Investor Watch and Arts Economics across seven markets: US, UK, France, Germany, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Millennial collectors were found to be the most active buyers and spent the most, averaging total expenditure of $3 million over two years, more than six times the spending of Boomers. Female collectors, although fewer in number had a higher average level of spending than men, with a substantial 16% having spent over $10 million in the last two years. The female collectors surveyed also had larger collections than men on average, with one-third exceeding 100 works (versus 21% of men). 
  • Online Sales: After more than five years of continuous growth in sales, the online market slowed in 2019 with sales estimated at $5.9 billion, a decline of 2% year-on-year, yet maintaining a 9% share of global sales by value. The UBS Investor Watch and Arts Economics HNW survey, showed nearly half (48%) of the collectors used online platforms to purchase art either often or always. Millennial collectors were the most regular users of the online channel, with only 8% having never bought online. Although 65% of HNW collectors had not exceeded a price of $50,000 online for an individual work, one quarter had spent more than $100,000 and 8% had spent over $1 million, double the share that had spent at that price level in 2018.
  • Auction Figures: Sales at public auction reached $24.2 billion in 2019, down 17% after two years of consecutive growth. Auction sales declined by double digits across all leading markets: the US, the UK and China. The slowdown was largely supply-driven, with a lower number of very high-priced lots coming up for sale. However France saw sales rise by 16% to over $1.6 billion. Private sales also increased substantially, with all of the major auction houses posting double digit year-on-year gains in this category. 
  • Dealer Figures: Sales in the dealer sector increased 2% year-on-year, to an estimated $36.8 billion in 2019. The moderate growth in aggregate sales continued to be driven by the high end of the market. Finding new buyers was the biggest challenge cited by dealers in 2019. 
  • Art Fairs: Art fairs remained a central part of the global art market, with aggregate sales estimated to reach $16.6 billion in 2019, 45% share of the total value of global dealer sales. 15% of sales were estimated to take place pre-fair ($2.5 billion); 64% during fairs ($10.6 billion); and 21% were made after the fair as a direct result of participation ($3.5 billion). 
  • Gender Issues: The report again includes a review of artist representation and gender issues, revealing an average share of female buyers in the dealer segment of 36%, an increase of 9% in share on the figures reported in 2018. The representation of female artists by galleries working in the primary market rose 8% year-on-year to 44% of the total artists represented, while their share of sales also increased from 32% in 2018 to 40% on average in 2019.

Paul Donovan, Chief Economist, UBS Global Wealth Management, said: "The art market often mirrors the trends and economic developments we see in wealth creation. The growth of millennial and female spending power today is part of that. But even economists must admit that there is more to life than economics. True collectors are driven by passion and an appreciation for quality. Art pays emotional dividends, enriching lives in a way that GDP can never capture."

Clare McAndrew, Founder, Arts Economics said: "While sales in the art market have often shown great resilience to events in the wider economic and political context, we have also seen that in periods of uncertainty, vendors are often enticed into the relative security and confidentiality of private sales. This appears to have been the case once again in 2019, with an increase in such sales by major auction houses and a corresponding increase in global market share by dealers. International cross-border flows of art currently also face a range of opposing forces, from increasing trade regulation and tariffs, to the drive to purchase more locally to reduce the art market’s impact on the environment. The globalization of the art market has been the key to its expansion over the last 20 years, reducing its downside risk through the support of a more diversified base of buyers and sellers. While these tendencies are unlikely to be challenged in the short-term, rising tariffs and regulations that impede cross border sales may have a negative effect on the market’s growth in future."

Noah Horowitz, Director Americas, Art Basel said: "Clare McAndrew's global art market report is once again essential reading for our industry. In this latest edition, she reveals that while the overall market cooled in 2019 - driven by a notable easing of inventory and sales at the highest levels of the auction sector - considerable resiliency remained: individual markets in Europe were up despite the challenges of Brexit; the dealer sector posted incremental gains, with the majority reporting stable or growing turnover; and private sales at the major auction houses grew considerably. McAndrew's study also offers insightful new analytics on art fair sales channels, while shedding light on fascinating emergent trends within the online sphere and mapping a granulated picture of global collector tendencies."

The report draws on several additional strands of UBS research:

  • UBS and PWC (2019) The Billionaire Effect: Billionaire Insights 2019. This report highlights an ‘Athena Factor’ where the number of female billionaires was growing at a higher factor than men from 1995 to 2015 and this continued through 2018, with their estimated growth rates from 2013 to 2018 for women at 46% versus 39% for men. 
  • UBS Evidence Lab Inside: European Luxury. Luxury at a Tipping Point reported that almost 80% of Chinese consumers felt that their financial situation would be better or much better over the next 12 months, which again continues to signal positive prospects for future sales in the region should these consumers focus on art and collectibles.
  • UBS Chief Investment Office (2020) 2019 in Review: Global Financial Markets. Published January 5, 2020, the research observed that the two economies at the center of the trade dispute were still among the best-performing markets of the year. US stocks were one of the biggest drivers of growth in these markets in 2019, delivering returns of 31%, while Chinese equities achieved 24%. 

UBS shares its passion for art and collecting with a global community of clients and has one of the world’s largest and most important corporate art collections. The firm seeks to advance the international conversation about the art market through its global lead partnership with Art Basel and as co-publisher of this report. UBS provides its clients with insight into the art market, collecting and legacy planning through its Art Collectors Circle and UBS Art Advisory. For more information about UBS’s commitment to contemporary art and to download the report, visit ubs.com/art.

Note to Editors

About UBS's Chief Investment Office
UBS's Chief Investment Office (CIO) oversees the investment strategy for USD 2.6 trillion in client assets across UBS's wealth management businesses globally. CIO is headquartered in Zurich and has strategists and analysts located in major financial centers worldwide, including New York, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore. CIO's expertise spans a full range of investments, from equities, bonds, currencies and commodities to alternative and impact investment funds.

About Arts Economics and Clare McAndrew
Arts Economics is a research and consulting firm focused exclusively on research and analysis of the fine and decorative art market for private and institutional clients. The company was founded by Clare McAndrew in 2005. Dr McAndrew is a cultural economist who specializes in the arts, antiques and collectibles markets. She completed her PhD in economics at Trinity College Dublin in 2001, where she also lectured and taught economics for four years. In 2002, Clare joined US firm Kusin & Company, a boutique investment banking firm specializing in art investment, as chief economist. After three years in the United States, Clare returned to Europe in 2005, and continued her work in the art market in a private research and consulting capacity for a global client base. She set up Arts Economics in 2005 to focus her efforts on art market research and analysis, and works with a network of private consultants and academic scholars in different regions around the world providing research and consulting services to the global art trade and financial sector.

About Art Basel
Founded in 1970 by gallerists from Basel, Art Basel today stages the world's premier art shows for Modern and contemporary art, sited in Basel, Miami Beach, and Hong Kong. Defined by its host city and region, each show is unique, which is reflected in its participating galleries, artworks presented, and the content of parallel programming produced in collaboration with local institutions for each edition. Art Basel’s engagement has expanded beyond art fairs through a number of new initiatives such as The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report and Art Basel Cities. For further information, please visit artbasel.com.

UBS and Art Basel
The relationship between UBS and Art Basel began in 1994 when the Swiss financial services firm began serving as lead partner for the original edition of the show in Basel. In 1999, the partnership was extended to include Art Basel’s Unlimited exhibition platform – which enables artists to realize highly original and ambitious projects – and, in 2002, the inaugural edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach. In 2014, UBS became involved with Art Basel in Hong Kong, officially assuming its current role as global Lead Partner of Art Basel for all three of its acclaimed international venues. In June 2016, it was announced that Art Basel and UBS would partner to commission a comprehensive, new annual art-market report by renowned cultural economist Dr. Clare McAndrew.
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