2014 also witnessed another remarkable record: the number of results above a million dollars reached 1,679, four times the total of 10 years earlier. The number of over-a-million-dollar results in 2014 was equivalent to the combined number from 2004 to 2006. In other words, it took just 12 months to match the number recorded over three years at the start of the Millennium. And while milliondollar results increased in volume, they also grew in intensity: 116 works sold above $10 million around the world in 2014, up more than 500% versus 10 years earlier. In 2005 there were only 18. In terms of the most sought-after signatures, two Chinese and eight Western artists share the 2014 Top 10. Auction turnover totals identify Andy Warhol as the big winner with the highest annual total ever recorded by any artist at any time: $569 million. The American Pop Art star left b a long way behind with a total of $75 million for 2014 sales, followed by Francis Bacon with $270 million (+$74 million vs. last year), Gerhard Richter with $254 million, Mark Rothko with $249 million and Claude Monet in 6th place with $222 million. We find the Chinese artist Qi Baishi in 7th place with $206 million, then Alberto Giacometti with $205 million and Zhang Daqian with $193 million (vs. $291 million in 2013). The ranking closes with the American artist Jeff Koons who totaled more than $149 million. Of the 10 artists listed in the ranking, two are living artists, reflecting a certain rejuvenation of the art market.
Buyers are increasingly willing to invest in works by their contemporaries, including young artists – sometimes under 30 – as long as the artist’s CV is of the right pedigree. The auction prices of the new stars of the Contemporary art market can easily double within two or three years. The ultra-high end art market is driven by an elite of American, European and Asian players as well as by a growing number of players from the Middle East, Latin America and Russia. In its lower echelons, the art market is expanding every year, driven by the exponential development of online sales. Client portfolios around the world are growing rapidly; the top auction companies receive applications to participate in online auction sales from nearly 200 countries, mainly thanks to mobile Internet.
The new ‘mobile Internet’ economic model is an irreversible development that has received a massive boost from the very recent arrival on the market of ‘silver surfers’, rich over-50s who enjoy and collect art and who today represent the primary users and buyers via mobile devices. For this population, Internet has become the primary hunting ground for artworks in the world, particularly via tablets and phablets which perfectly suit senior lifestyles. Before mobile Internet, the desktop PC represented a real psychological barrier for access to the Internet and online auction sales. The latest market research data in 2015 indicates that the most intense users of mobile Internet are now the over-50s in the higher socio-professional categories. The major auction firms clearly wish to maintain their activity at the highest levels, increase their volumes of business and work on new markets.
The expansion of Christie’s and Sotheby’s in Asia is a coherent part of that strategy. Both firms operate in Hong Kong, while Christie’s has set up shop in Shanghai and Sotheby’s in Beijing. In India, Christie’s held its second Mumbai sale in December 2014, posting a respectable turnover of $12 million (incl. fees) with a 90% sold rate (70% of the results were above estimate). These very positive figures prove a strong level of demand in the Indian market. Between the geographical expansion of the market, the technical facilities offered by the Internet, the permanent growth of the major auction houses’ distribution networks, the financialization of the art market, the historically low interest rates, the acquisition of art as a status symbol, the increasing media interest in art, not to mention the pure love of art itself… all the conditions exist to keep prices on the art market high, or push them even higher. Art market transparency, notably thanks to Artprice and Artron (in Asia) who respond to several billion information requests per year, contributes to the overall confidence of the market, whose players previously had to rely on auction price reference books. Lastly, the 21st century has seen the emergence of the museum industry as a genuine segment of economic activity, a development substantially pioneered by Peggy Guggenheim and conceptualized earlier in André Malraux’s Imaginary Museum. In fact, a museum is a modern-day cathedral that allows different generations and different classes of people to find the individuality and uniqueness that art offers in a world dominated by mass standardization.
The figures relating to this new sector are impressive. More new museums were created between 2000 and 2015 than during the entire 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays – particularly in the Greater Asia region – the rate of new museum openings is one per day, and the segment is regularly referred to as the ‘museum industry’, attracting ‘museum tourism’.
The era of 19th century ‘curation – al stagnation’ is now long behind us. In his Imaginary Museum of World Sculpture (1952 -54), Malraux seems to have perfectly understood the future. A prophetic visionary, he had al – ready foreseen that the 21st century museum would be a unique space dedicated to all the arts… a place where all cultures and genera – tions can meet and converge. In his view, the museum imposes a completely new relation – ship between the visitor and the artwork. Today, the museum industry is clearly one of the driving factors behind the spectacular growth of the art market. As a general rule, a museum needs a mini – mum of three to four thousand museum quality works to be credible. Considering the projects on different continents around the world, museum-fuelled demand for art is likely to drive the art market upwards for a long time to come, especially as museums usually buy to keep.’
thierry Ehrmann and Wan Jie
Annual Global Art Market Report 2014 will be online March 3, 2014