Art Market Trends 2011

2011 definitively confirmed Chinese domination of the art market: with a more than 40% share of the global art market and six out of the world’s top ten best-selling artists, China is now incontrovertibly the world’s leader of the art market.

Art Market Trends 2011,

Last year I provided readers with a snapshot of key facts from Art Market Trends 2010 produced annually by Artprice which is the best global summary of art auction data. Last year it was all about China and this year of review, 2011, is no exception. If the previous year marked China’s rise as the new global powerhouse of international art trade, 2011 confirmed this was no flash in the pan. The figures coming out of Chinese art auctions are truly breathtaking and clearly reflect the enormous and rapid disposable wealth being generated by a highly acquisitive population and government, with public museums popping up all over mainland China. Below I summarise key facts about the 2011 year at auction:

• In 2011, China represented 41% of global art auction trade9
• More high-value art is being sold in China (this naturally includes Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong) than anywhere else in the world
• Drawings, typically a small global catalogue by turnover, have skyrocketed due to the Chinese appetite for drawn works on paper with annual revenue up by $1.318 billion
• In many ways the global art economy reflects the two speed nature of the Australian economy; a relatively weak European and American trade while China and other Asian states are experiencing a profound early stage explosion in art trade
• The GFC and subsequent economic turmoil have certainly driven more dollars in to the art asset class by investors that consider it a relatively safe area to park some cash that is not performing on the share markets
• This previous point seemed to be confirmed somewhat by a record $11.57 billion in art traded in calendar 2011 which is the highest figure ever recorded (readers should note that this is profoundly influenced by the explosion in Chinese art trade that grew 49% in the 2011, yes that’s 49%!)
• Christie’s and Sotheby’s art turnover covered 47% in 2011 compared to 73% in the early 2000s – Chinese auction houses and the rise of internet trade are considered key drivers of this decline in art market dominance – the writer would not at all be surprised if a Chinese billionaire with a passion for art might decide one day to acquire a trophy brand like Sotheby’s or Christie’s
• While the European, American and English auction art markets can be measured in centuries the Asian one can be measured in a single decade – it clearly has a long way to go!
• Modern art, as opposed to contemporary or traditional areas, remains at the heart of the global trade and as if to prove the point of their rise, China can now claim as its own the two highest grossing artists in the world – move over Picasso and Warhol
• But it is not just Modern art that it is being driven up by the Chinese. The Old Master Wang Meng now sits between no less than Rubens and Raphael, yes Raphael, as the second most expensive work ever to sell in this category at auction at $54 million
•  Interestingly, the Contemporary art sector sold more works by volume in 2011 than ever before and nearly double that since 2001 with 62% of works selling for $5000 or less
• Unsold works at auction peaked in 2008/2009 and the figure is now declining slightly albeit still fairly high compared to the heady days of 2006/2007
• The ‘Shark in the Tank’ artist Damien Hirst, is identified as perhaps the emblematic fad artist of the last decade with nine (9) million dollar results in 2011 compared to sixty-five (65) in the 2006-2008 period
• Christie’s announced a 29% increase in online art revenues from 2010 to 2011

And for those interested, where do Australian artists sit by turnover in the top 500 artists globally?

Brett Whiteley 225
Russell Drysdale 291
Arthur Boyd 350
John Brack 406
Fred Williams 408
Jeffrey Smart 481
Sidney Nolan 482

Image Details
Song Haizeng (Chinese, born 1969)
Edge of the City Blue Series #3 2000, acrylic on linen, 99.5 x 80.5cm
Sold for $7,200 (IBP)

By John Albrecht