Art Basel Miami Beach 2019, Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel. © Art Basel.

In 2019, global art sales eased 5% year-on-year to an estimated $64.1 billion – while the volume of transactions hit a decade-high of 40.5 million, according to the latest edition of the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report. Authored by renowned cultural economist Dr Clare McAndrew, the annual analysis is the definitive guide to key trends and developments – with an additional survey of 1,300 high-net-worth collectors by UBS Investor Watch and Arts Economics providing fresh insight into buyer behavior.

Further insights include active spending by millennial and female collectors, and an increase in the number of online purchases in excess of $1million.

The US retained its position as the largest market globally

The country accounted for 44% of the global market share in 2019 – a percentage unchanged since 2018. Despite uncertainty around Brexit, the UK retained its position as the second largest market, with a share of 20%, followed by China – the third largest market, with a share of 18%.

Millennial collectors were the most active buyers – and spent the most

Buyers in this age group averaged a total expenditure of $3 million over two years, according to a survey of 1,300 high-net-worth collectors by UBS Investor Watch and Arts Economics, included in the report. The figure is more than six times the amount spent by boomers.

Female collectors had a higher average level of spending than men

Though there were fewer female collectors, those surveyed had a higher average level of spending than men – with 16% having spent more than $10 million in the last two years. Female collectors also had larger collections than men on average, with one-third exceeding 100 works.

Nearly half of collectors had purchased through an online platform

48% of high-net-worth collectors surveyed said they ‘always’ or ‘often’ purchased works through online platforms. Of those that had bought online, one quarter had spent more than $100,000, while 8% had spent over $1 million – double the share that had spent at that level in 2018.

Auction sales made up 42% of the market, while those in the dealer sector accounted for 58%

Sales at public auction reached $24.2 billion in 2019 – down 17% after two years of consecutive growth. Despite the decline in public auction sales, private sales increased in all the major top-tier Western auction houses. Globally, dealer sales increased by 2% year-on-year to an estimated $36.8 billion.

Art fairs remained a central part of the global art market

In 2019, aggregate sales from art fairs reached an estimated $16.6 billion – accounting for 45% of the total value of global dealer sales. New data shed lights on the distribution of art fair sales: 15% 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).

Female artists and collectors gained slightly greater representation

Women accounted for 44% of all artists represented by galleries working in the primary sector – an increase of 8% year-on-year, according to dedicated research into gender issues. Female buyers were also more prominent, accounting for 36% of all dealer transactions – an increase of 9% on 2018.

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."

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.

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