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December 10, 2018

Global art market returns to growth driven by US buyers

By Oliver Williams

Sales in the global art market reached $63.7 billion in 2017, up 12% from 2016, according to a new report by UBS and Art Basel, an art fair which opened in Miami Beach over the weekend.

According to The Art Market 2018 report, the growth of the art market was driven by US investors. Over a third of American HNWIs said they are “active in the art and collectibles market”. The US made up 42% of the global art market in 2017.

Its nearest rival is China, which accounts for roughly half of America’s share. China’s 21% of the global art market has steadily decreased from highs of 30% in 2011. However, sales increased 14% to $13.2 billion. The report said this was “driven by the dominant auction sector” among other factors.

UK’s share in the art market declines

The UK’s share of the global art market is its smallest in a decade. In 2017, the UK accounted for 20% of the market.

However, the UK was by far the largest market in the EU in 2017. The UK accounted for 62% of sales by value, almost double its nearest rival, France.

Global Art Market in EU

UBS Art Basel Report


“Sales in the UK have advanced by 45%, more than twice the rate of the EU as a whole,” the report stated.

Growth in blockchain and online sales

More art investors are buying online than ever before, noted the report. “The global online art and antiques market was estimated to have reached a new high of $5.4 billion in 2017, up 10% year-on-year and accounting for 8% of the value of global sales.”

Blockchain purchases are not included in the online data but have seen an unusual amount of interest this year.

Maecenas was the first company to offer blockchain investments in art and this year it launched the first blockchain-based auctions of fine art.

Other areas of the luxury investables market have followed suit. In October, PBI reported the blockchain based lifestyle investment platform TEND is forming a partnership with Cult Wines.

However, the UBS Art Basel report notes the anonymity of cryptocurrencies could also create a “black market of dubious transactions that could worsen the reputation of the online market with new buyers.”

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