The global auction market soared to record levels in 2021, with Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips posting a combined US$12.6 billion in sales, according to a report released Tuesday.
The figure was 70.2% higher than 2020, and 2.3% higher than the previous peak in 2018, according to RawFacts Auction Review 2021 by ArtTactic, a London-based art market research firm.
Sotheby’s maintained its leading position,accounting for 49.8% of the total auction sales last year, with auctions running at US$6 billion. That’s the highest level in the company’s 277-year history.
Sotheby’s successful sales strategy included “a diverse digital offering and securing the sales of high-value single-owner collections, including the Macklowe collection and the MGM Resorts Fine Art Collection,” the report said.
Christie’s market share increased from 40.9% in 2020 to 42.6% in 2021, and Phillips’ market share dropped to 7.6%, down from 8.7% in 2020.
New York retained its position as the global art hub, accounting for 48% of auction sales in 2021. Hong Kong, with a market share of 19.4%, replaced London to become the second most important art market, where the three auction houses saw a combined US$2.45 billion in sales.
London’s market share fell to 16.6% from 22.7% in 2020, although auction sales rose from US$1.7 billion in 2020 to US$2.1 billion in 2021, according to the report.
Online sales continued to explode as the three auction houses adapted to the global pandemic. Online-only sales amounted to US$1.35 billion, up 28.2% from 2020 and accounting for 10.7% of total auction sales. Online-only sales were at a mere US$168.2 million in 2019.
In terms of categories, post-war and contemporary art accounted for 32.8% of the market in 2021, with total sales of US$4.14 billion, according to the report.
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