Four months into the Russian army’s intrusion into Ukraine, Artmarket.com and Artprice observe that the global art market has pursued its agenda apparently unperturbed by the conflict unfolding on Europe’s doorstep. The prestigious Art Basel, TEFAF, and Brafa fairs have (or will be) hosted in Europe, along with the Venice Biennale and dOCUMENTA without the risk of war (any more than the resumption of the Covid-19 epidemic or the threat of an ecological crisis) spoiling the festivities.
“With $6.1 billion hammered at auction over the first five months of this year, versus $5.4 billion over the same period last year, 2022 is already looking much stronger. That’s a 12% increase!” says Thierry Ehrmann, CEO, and Founder of Artmarket.com and its Artprice department.
+50% turnover in the USA
The analyses conducted by Artprice reveal a superbly intense start to the year 2022, even if the organization of auction sales remains disrupted in several parts of the world (particularly in Asia) by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The clear winner this year, the United States has posted a 50% increase in fine art auction turnover after the major spring sales. The last prestige sessions were marked by the spectacular result of close to $200 million for Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964) at Christie’s. Its new owner is none other than gallery owner Larry Gagosian whose business could suffer from international sanctions taken against the Russian oligarchs he counts among his clients.
New York’s spring sales were also electrified by the sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting Untitled (1982). Having paid $57.3 million to acquire the painting in 2016, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa re-sold it this year for $85 million, an additional 48% in just six years.
Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled (1982) therefore posted an average annual return of +6.8% during the six years it was in Maezawa’s collection. This capital gain will partly serve to cover Christie’s buyer’s fees (more than $11 million on this lot), but also to reassure the market which had seen Basquiat’s prices climb at a dizzying pace with the purchases made by Yusaku Maezawa. In 2017, the Japanese collector acquired a painting by the same artist and from the same year for a record sum of $110 million.
Europe forges ahead, Asia is on hold and the Metaverse is getting underway
The UK has started 2022 with a 35% increase in fine art auction turnover (versus the year-earlier period) and France has posted a 25% increase. Europe, therefore, seems to have fully recovered from the health crisis. However, the situation is different in Asia where lots of sales have been postponed due to a new wave of Covid-19. So far this year, Hong Kong has hammered only $146 million in fine art auction turnover compared with over half a billion USD last year.
Meanwhile, the world of crypto-currencies and Web3 has been very generous in supporting the Ukrainian cause. Kyiv started to accept donations in the form of NFTs as of April 2022. Several artists have also embarked on charity sales of NFTs, such as JR in collaboration with Ukraine DAO and Pussy Riot who sold a digital version of the Ukrainian flag for $6.7 million.
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