Artprice: exclusive Annual Report on the Global Photography Market for Paris Photo

Artprice is presenting its exclusive 18th Annual Report on the Global Photog- raphy Market at Paris Photo, the French capital’s annual photography fair. The report includes a market ranking of the Top 200 photographers.

The 19th edition of Paris Photo, the world’s leading photography fair, will take place at the Grand Palais from 12 to 15 November. The magnificent Pa- risian venue will host 172 galleries from 34 countries and several thousand photographs.

Addressing a much broader spectrum of potential buyers, the fair has the am- bition of being much more exciting than the FIAC itself. A generally more af- fordable medium than painting, sculpture or even drawing, photography has appealed to a large population of collectors since gaining widespread accept- ance as a Fine Art discipline.

The excitement that accompanies the acquisition of a unique work is naturally attenuated when it comes to buying a work edited in 3, 10 or 20 copies. How- ever, the multiplicity does not affect the quality of the work… buyers just have to accept the notion of sharing.

Today, the prints of some photographs change hands for several million euros. The market has been slow to reach that level, but it is becoming more com- mon. Initially reserved for extremely rare historical photos and vestiges of the emergence of a “new technique”, the highest auction results are now generated by Contemporary artists. Photography has also enabled performance artists to capture moments in a performance that would otherwise remain ephemeral and thereby enter the art market. Similarly, lots of sculptures and installations, beyond the means of most young collectors both in terms of price and format, have been offered to the market via the medium of photography.

Artprice, world leader in Art Market information, takes a look back over the emergence of the art photography market.

 

Key figures for the art photography market:

 – Photography’s price index grew 48% between 2000 and 2015

– Photographs represents 1% of Fine Art auction turnover (first half of 2015)

– In the first six months of 2015, half of the photographs sold fetched under $1,560

– The average auction price for a photograph is $10,000 compared with $60,000 for a painting

– The US accounted for over half of the global auction turnover in this medium (54%)

– China, the number 2 art market in the world, accounted for just 1.2% of photography turnover

– The world auction record for a photograph is $9.4 million (The New Jeff Koons (1980))

– Only 20 artists have sold at auction above the $1 million threshold

– A. Gursky, C. Sherman and R. Prince alone account for 25% of the global turnover in this medium

 

Photography price index
January 1998 – October 2015

Photography price index January 1998 – October 2015

Photography price index January 1998 – October 2015

Over the last 15 years, photography’s price index has grown 48% while that of the Fine Art market as a whole has grown 36%. Photography has therefore rep- resented a better investment than other artistic media over the first part of the 21st century. From a sociological perspective, the Art Market is very sensitive to the photography segment because the latter acts as an important entry point for younger and less wealthy collectors.

Photography sales experienced strong growth in the early 2000s at a pace sig- nificantly faster than the rest of the Fine Art Market: secondary market prices for photographs almost tripled in just ten years. Unfortunately the financial cri- ses had a negative impact on the entire Art Market, and photography, like the other segments, experienced a 36% contraction in its prices in just 18 months (between January 2008 and July 2009).

Having stabilised for several years, photography prices started to climb again over the first half of 2015 while the overall Art Market has been less dynamic, largely due to an adjustment of China’s economy (see Artprice’s 2015 half-year report). However, the Asian market has little taste for photography.

Geographical distribution of auction turnover from the sale of photographs
First half 2015

Geographical distribution of auction turnover from the sale of photographs First half 2015

Geographical distribution of auction turnover from the sale of photographs First half 2015

Largely driven by the USA and the UK, the photography market is almost nonexistent in China. Only 1.2% of the public auction turnover was generated by photographs in the People’s Republic of China (including Hong Kong) in the first half of 2015. The country nevertheless accounts for 26% of the global Fine Art auction market over the same period, the second largest market share behind the USA (38%).

France, which is experiencing a steady contraction of its share of the global Art Market (now accounting for less than 3% of the world Fine Art auction turnover), remains the third largest market place for this medium, with 9%, hence the importance of Paris Photo in keeping France on the global Art Mar- ket map. Indeed, photography continues to maintain a special relationship with its country of origin… its birthplace. Chalon-sur-Saone, Louis Daguerre, Rob- ert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson are all names that will forever link the “8th art” to France and it is certainly no coincidence that the grand masters of the technique like Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Brassaï or André Kertész came to France and often set up studios in the country. The work of these prodigious artists is still highly valued by French collectors.

Global art auction turnover, by medium
First half 2015

Global art auction turnover, by medium First half 2015

Global art auction turnover, by medium First half 2015

Photography is still one of the rarest artistic media on the secondary market. In terms of lots sold, it represents only 4% of the global Fine Art market. In terms of sales turnover, it accounts for just 1%. The $73 million that it gener- ated in the first half of 2015 is dwarfed by the $7.1 billion turnover from global sales of Fine Art over the same period. Moreover, these figures are much in line with the full-year figures for 2014: $180 million from photography, and $13 bil- lion from Fine Art as a whole.

Because photographs are generally printed in several copies, it is natural that the average price of a single photograph should be less than that of a unique artwork. During the first half of 2015, the average auction prices of the different artistic media were as follows; $60,000 in painting, $47,000 in sculpture and even $25,000 in drawing. In the photography segment, the average was just $10,000.

Nevertheless, half of the works sold for amounts below $1,560 and 4 out of 5 lots (80%) were acquired for under $7,000!

The top prices ever paid at auction in the photography segment
January 1998 – October 2015

The top prices ever paid at auction in the photography segment January 1998 – October 2015

The top prices ever paid at auction in the photography segment January 1998 – October 2015

The Art Market remained relatively impervious to photography as an artistic medium for a very long time. Until 2005, no photograph had ever fetched more than a million dollars at auction. In the same year, the auction records for the other media were $104 million for painting (Picasso’s Le garçon à la pipe (1905)), $18 million for sculpture (Brancusi’s Danaïde (1913)) and $28 million for a drawing (Degas’ Danseuse au repos (1879)). Back in 1990, one of Pablo Picasso serigraphs (La Minotauromachie (1935)) crossed the symbolic threshold when it sold for $2.4 million. In May 2003, a 1842 daguerreotype by Philibert GIRAULT DE PRANGEY got fairly close to the million-dollar line when it fetched $923,000 at Christie’s in London.

In the years that followed, photography prices starting growing at a faster pace. On 12 October 2005, a set of photographs by Edward S. Curtis was acquired for $1.4 million (more than twice the high estimate) at Christie’s in New York. In February 2007, Andreas Gursky’s diptych 99 cents II broke through the $3 million threshold. Finally, in May 2013, a photograph of Jeff Koons, entitled The New Jeff Koons, was acquired for over $9 million. However, this price must be seen as quite exceptional for the photography market because it was paid for a unique work by the artist himself. Other photos of the American artist have never fetched more than $100,000.

Only twenty artists have generated at least one auction result above the mil- lion-dollar threshold from a photograph. Remarkably, half of them are Con- temporary artists (born after 1945) and even more remarkably, the great names in photojournalism are conspicuously absent: Robert Capa, Henri CartierBresson or Robert Doisneau are missing from this list.

It is clear that the market has a strong appetite for photographs created by living artists. Their most sought-after works are usually very large formats that were not exploited by the early photographers. In fact, it appears that the bigger the format, the more the market is willing to pay. It is perhaps no coincidence that in 1999 Andreas Gursky doubled the size of his photograph of the Rhine and that Rhein II (207 x 385.5 cm) is now estimated at twice the price of the previous smaller version.

The three major Contemporary photographers Andreas Gursky, Cindy Sher- man and Richard Prince account for nearly two-thirds of the grand total of million-plus results in the above table. They represent a very small elite in the market and are the only photographer/artists who can claim to rival the major painters in price terms. Their work has been acquired by all the major collec- tions of Contemporary art, just like Gerhard Richter’s paintings and Anish Kapoor’s sculptures.

Ranking of photographers by number of results over a million dollars (including fees)
Each artist’s auction record is also indicated

Ranking of photographers by number of results over a million dollars (including fees) Each artist’s auction record is also indicated

Ranking of photographers by number of results over a million dollars (including fees) Each artist’s auction record is also indicated

Auction turnover from photos
1998 – 2014

Auction turnover from photos 1998 - 2014

Auction turnover from photos 1998 – 2014

The photography market enjoyed its best year in 2014. With a total auction turnover of $180 million, it finally returned to its 2007 level, i.e. before the fi- nancial crisis. As regards 2015, Artprice’s figures suggest a particularly good year for photography.

The three most successful photographers on the auction market represent a significant share of the photography market’s turnover. In 2014, they accounted for 25% of the total auction turnover (with $44 million)!

Breakdown per price range of the photographs sold at auction
First half 2015

Breakdown per price range of the photographs sold at auction First half 2015

Breakdown per price range of the photographs sold at auction First half 2015

Nevertheless, overall, photography is still the most affordable art medium of all with just 11 results above $1 million in the first six months of 2015 and more than a quarter of its auction results recorded below $1,000. Half of the works sold generated less than $1,560 and 4 lots out of 5 (80%) were acquired for less than $7,000!

Conclusion

Less than two centuries after its invention by Nicéphore Niépce (1827), pho- tography is finally emerging as an established artistic medium on the Art Mar- ket. Although it still only accounts for 4% of the lots sold on the Art market and just 1% its turnover, it is beginning to show important signs of acceptance. As discussed above, the photography medium plays an important sociological role in the overall Art Market as it gives faster access to a younger and less wealthy segment of the population.

While the acceptance of photography as an art form today seems undeniable, it is worth remembering that this acceptance has only come after its approval by intellectuals (including Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes), its technical exploration by important figures in Modern art history (Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, etc.), its popularisation by numerous photo-reporters (Robert Doisneau, Dorothea Lange, etc.) and its glamorisation via the fashion world (Edward Steichen, Helmut Newton, etc.). A lengthy process indeed… but one that has finally given today’s best photographers an equal footing with sculptors and painters.

The coming years will most likely witness the ultimate consecration of the new generation: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Thomas Struth, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, Jeff Wall and Piotr Uklansky.

Even the nearly 30 year-old debate over whether or not press photography qualifies as art appears to have overwhelmingly tipped in favour of a positive response. Nowadays the biographies of lots of photographers include the time they spent doing press photography as it is perfectly coherent with their artistic work. Moreover, the internationally recognised news photo agencies have fully integrated this dimension into their contractual relationships with their report- ers and/or participative members.

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

ARTPRICE Top 200 photographers at auction – all figures include fees (July 2014 – June 2015)

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