INTRODUCTION: ART & THE FINANCIAL MARKETS IN 2022
The first half of 2022 has seen global financial markets suffer their worst performance in decades. According to Dow Jones Market Data, the S&P 500 suffered its worst first half year since 1970, meanwhile stocks and bonds have tumbled, and cryptocurrencies have crashed.
All the while, the art market has seen total sales hit $7.4 billion, exceeding the market’s most recent peak in 2018 and posting 25.2% year-on-year growth from 2021. Record prices were set at auction for both artists and sale categories as the high-end art market flourished.
“What else are you going to invest in right now? Art doesn’t evaporate.”
– Charles Stewart, Chief Executive, Sotheby’s
Global Auction Sales in H1 2022 showed significant growth across the board as Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips all posted impressive sales figures. Sotheby’s came close to matching their 2018 peak total, whilst Christie’s and Phillips exceeded them in a demonstration of the art market’s remarkable speed of recovery following the 2020 pandemic downturn.
Post-War & Contemporary art led H1 of 2022 in total sales, propelled by significant Post-War collections such as the Collection of Doris and Thomas Ammann at Christie’s and Macklowe Collection at Sotheby’s. The $2.52 billion total was closely followed by $2.41 billion’s worth of Impressionist & Modern art, showing the greatest year-on-year growth with an increase of 57.5%.
The dominance of Post-War & Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern categories at auction is apparent in their market share, which accounted for 66.6% of total global sales.
In the 2021 Art Basel and UBS Art Market Report, the USA, China, and London were held by far the largest market shares at 43%, 20%, and 17% respectively; New York, London, and Hong Kong retained the largest auction market shares, reiterating the strength of global demand. In the words of Charles Stewart, Chief Executive of Sotheby’s, “whenever we’ve noticed stress or anxiety coming from country X, sector Y, category Z, the bidding is so broad-based that it offsets these concerns. That keeps prices strong.”
Digital art and auction formats however suffered, and online-only auction sales declined and NFT sales plummeted, signalling a collector reversion to the greater stability of physical art in the face of catastrophic volatility in the cryptocurrency markets.
Meanwhile, the focus on physical artworks with proven value saw strong performances for works at the upper-end of the market as $1m+ works by established artists underpinned strong results and high average auction prices.
Overall, the first half of 2022 paints a healthy picture of the art market: sales growth reflects strong market demand, whilst the inundation of high-quality works, particularly in the New York flagship sales in May demonstrated seller confidence. In the face of record levels of inflation and the prospect of continued uncertainty in the financial markets, the outlook for the art market remains promising based off of the first half of the year. In the words of the New York Times, “top-quality works sell for top prices, however tumultuous the state of the world—be it a war overseas, a pandemic or a terrorist attack.”
Download the full report, including further in-depth analysis here.
*Data sourced from ArtTactic.
** Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.