Online growth, optimism, and the resilience of dealers – The Art Basel and UBS Art Market Report 2024

Key Takeaways 

    • The value of art market sales totaled $65B in 2023, a 4% decline from 2022, however the volume of transactions grew by 4% totaling 39.4M
    • The US maintained its position as the leading market, with China moving into second ahead of the UK
    • A slower NFT market shows signs of decreased speculation and burgeoning connoisseurship 

The eighth edition of The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report authored by Dr. Clare McAndrew of Arts Economics landed this week with its aggregate data and insights into the markets the art industry relies on. As ever, the outlook is mixed. An overall decline of the sector, by 4%, is neither joyous nor unexpected but still leaves the market ahead of its pre-pandemic levels, with an estimated value of $65B. There are also signs of a sector diversifying with new online platforms and technologies gaining trust, and a fundamentally optimistic future.

New Horizons

Beneath the headline figures of growth or decline across genres and localities is a sector changing its shape and developing layers. Online sales continued their occupation of a larger arena with a 7% year-on-year growth capturing 18% of the overall market (equating to roughly $11.8B). Interestingly, within that figure dealers’ own online sites and platforms accounted for 20% in 2023 (up from 12% in 2022). 

Dealers demonstrated their ability to flex well within a fluid economy and an unstable economic and geopolitical stage. Auction houses saw a 7% drop in sales, while dealers reported a comparable 3%. 

The art market’s overall reliance upon high priced works began to show (particularly in the UK and US) and marked an interesting departure from previous behavior during rocky economic periods. The report notes: This again differentiates the performance of the market from some other slowdowns in previous years, where there tended to be fewer sales, with those taking the brunt of the declines as risk-averse buyers reverted to the high end or the often cited ‘flight to quality’.

That the Chinese art market reclaimed its position as the second largest art market internationally (simultaneously booting the UK back to third spot) also serves as a reminder that the international landscape continues to shift.

NFT sales declined compared to 2023, but interestingly the period of time assets were held between buying and selling was significantly longer. This signals a relaxed speculative market and the beginning of one based on connoisseurship. 

Measured confidence

2024 promises its fair share of surprises. Surveys underpinning the report’s findings and the adjoining analysis point to upcoming general elections (specifically the US, India and UK), tax shifts and a fluid regulatory landscape, amongst other factors on the minds of art professionals. Ongoing war in Europe, high inflation and interest rates also continue to play a role on future projections.

And yet, there is clearly also optimism. The report notes that in 2024, 36% of dealers expected an uptick in sales (against 16% predicting a decline) and 38% of the auction sector also expressed optimism for a ‘better year’ in 2024.

Learn more about this year’s findings, by downloading the full report here.