From strength to strength. The contemporary art market, 2020

The art market is notoriously resilient, often expanding in the face of significant economic and social challenges.

The art market is notoriously resilient, often expanding in the face of significant economic and social challenges. However, 2020 provided a particular set of obstacles for large sections of the industry. Covid-19, and the resulting restrictions, led to difficulties for galleries, exhibitions and other live art events. Auctions also saw major changes, navigating the translation of a traditionally physical experience to the virtual realm. Some of these changes were already being driven by existing trends in the industry - an increase in the importance of online sales, a burgeoning international buyers market, galleries controlling their own sales funnels and fewer art fairs. The pandemic acted as an accelerator, catalysing these trends and reforming the way a lot of art is sold. 


According to Art Basel’s mid year survey, the percentage of internal online sales rose from 7% in 2019 to 29% in H1 2020 - a marked increase that may explain how the market was able to innovate its way out of turmoil. This evolution even touched the fine art market, with Sotheby’s and Christie’s seeing a 900% rise in online sales - with a particularly buoyant third quarter. 


Art Price explored the digital transition with reference to Art fairs, noting - “Following the cancellation of its physical event, Art Basel Hong Kong launched an online substitute for its fair. This initiative attracted an impressive number of virtual visitors: 250,000, compared to less than 90,000 physical visitors for the edition of Art Basel Hong Kong in 2019.” This led to some large sales including a painting by Marlene DUMAS for $2.6 million. It’s worth remembering that the online sales process has some notable advantages, namely much higher margins.


Banksy’s “Show Me the Monet”


The Contemporary Art market made significant positive strides, perhaps underpinned by a younger, more digitally inclined audience - and particularly dynamic galleries. The opening up of the art world to the digital sphere has made it far more accessible to various demographics that were previously underrepresented. This year, millennial collectors were the most active buyers - averaging a total expenditure of $3 million across two years (according to a survey of high net-worth collectors by UBS Investor Watch and Arts Economics). This is six times the amount spent by boomers with millennials now making up nearly half (49%) of all art collectors across the globe, according to the Art Market 2020 report. Female collectors are also coming to the fore, acquiring larger collections than their male counterparts on average. 

Online gallery growth as shown by Arts Economics


From an anecdotal perspective, artists such as Banksy and Basquiat have had high-selling years, with Banksy’s “Show Me the Monet” selling for $9.8m in September (his second highest priced sale). Basquiat’s 1982 painting “Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump” was sold to billionaire Ken Griffin for $100m in June of this year, showing that even in the middle of a pandemic there is still a voracious appetite for contemporary art. Richard Hambleton’s market continues its upward trajectory, culminating in an impressive show at Saatchi Gallery in London.


Basquiat's 'Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump'


All of this information points in the right direction for the Contemporary Art market which represents a broader, more diverse range of artists and collectors. It is also able to take advantage of the movement to online sales, with collectors already being comfortable purchasing products through online stores. The ease by which art can be presented and sold to global audiences is a positive, with an appetite for contemporary art in global cities such as New York, Hong Kong, Dubai, Tokyo and Beijing. Agile contemporary art galleries will be able to promote, sell and distribute works to these markets through their own digital platforms. 


New works in D'Stassi Art Spotlight artist Adam Handler's NY Studio


This year, D’Stassi has strived to create a strong online presence for our artists - with the Spotlight Store launching a number of artists and selling out collections by Adam Handler and Schoony, amongst others. We have sought to represent a diverse range of collectors, opening the doors to the art world for a segment of society that were previously uninspired and unwelcomed by traditional galleries. Keep an eye on our social media for our exciting new Spotlight release in the second week of December. 


The D'Stassi Art team.

December 1, 2020