Art auctions reportedly witnessed a record year in 2021 as sales reached $17.1 billion with the market growing rapidly in Asia while recovering from the pandemic slump, according to experts at Artprice, a French online art price database.
As per Artprice’s annual report, the numbers were up by more than 60% from the year prior, when sales were affected due to the initial disruptions caused by the coronavirus, and a 28% rise from 2019.
The boost in sales can also be credited to several big-name auctions held, such as the sale of $45 million of Botticelli’s artwork and the sale of $34.9 million of Frida Kahlo’s artwork in New York.
Digital artist Beeple saw a landmark moment when he sold an NFT for a record $69 million, which is the third-highest figure that has been paid to a living artist.
It should be noted that NFTs are majorly sold on cryptocurrency exchange platforms and do not qualify under Artprice’s monitored ‘regulated auctions’, however the firm still counted around 300 traditional auctions of NFTs which amounted to $232 million in total, coming ahead of photography.
Thierry Ehrmann, President of Artprice, stated that the art market’s digitization had accelerated due to the global health crisis, with 87% of auction houses, out of 6,300 that the firm follows, now having a back-office that deals with online sales.
Contemporary art saw a growing share of sales, taking up 20% of the market in 2021 in comparison to the 3% in 2000.
China became the world’s largest art market with 35% of total sales worth $5.95 billion, followed by the USA with 34% having a more diversified market as it sold more artworks with a comparatively lower average price than China.
South Korea entered the top 10 with $237 million in sales, in comparison to its pre-pandemic sales of $58 million, while Britain’s art market saw a 10% drop from 2019 due to Brexit and competition from Hong Kong, recording $1.99 billion in sales.
Banksy and Gerhard Richter stayed the world’s best-selling living artists, with Banksy recording $206 million in sales from 1,186 artworks.