March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Global art sales approached their pre-crisis high last year, led by record prices for postwar artists and a jump in U.S. auctions.
Sales of art and antiques increased 8 percent from a year earlier to 47.4 billion euros ($65.9 billion), according to a report compiled by Arts Economics and published today by the European Fine Art Foundation in Maastricht, Netherlands. The results fell just short of the record 48 billion euros in 2007.
The value of postwar and contemporary art transactions increased by 11 percent from 2012, reaching its highest-ever auction sales total of 4.9 billion euros as records were established for artists such as Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Boosted by a 25 percent increase in sales, the U.S. confirmed its position as the international art market leader, representing 38 percent of the market by volume, a 5 percentage point increase from 2012, according to the report.
“Most high priced works in postwar and contemporary art are being sold in New York, both at auctions and in dealer sales,” Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist who compiled the report, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not just the U.S. buyers. People from Latin America and Asia are buying in New York.”
China accounted for 24 percent of the market, a 2 percentage point decline from 2012 and the U.K. was third, with 20 percent, according to the report.
The recent rally marks a rebound from 2009, when global art sales had contracted to 28.3 billion euros. With asset prices rising worldwide since then, a growing number of millionaires and billionaires worldwide has been buying art, according to the report. There were 32 million millionaires globally last year, of which 42 percent were based in the U.S. At least 600,000 of the global group are mid-to-high level art collectors, the findings show.
“The global art market as a whole is less susceptible to major contractions,” McAndrew said. “It’s more diversified. Since the downturn, it’s been up and down for different sectors and different countries.”
China remains the largest of the emerging economies participating in the art market. In 2011, the country briefly surpassed the U.S. in art sales, falling back to the second slot in the past two years.
Some of the “persistent problems” plaguing the Chinese art market include late and non-payment by winning bidders at auction, according to the report. A high percentage of unsold auction lots -- 54 percent of all lots offered in mainland China and 44 percent in Hong Kong -- has also dampened the market, indicating resistance to works buyers perceive as “over-priced or not the best examples by the artists,” as well as issues of provenance and authenticity, according to the report.
Online sales, a small but rapidly growing segment of the market, generated more than 2.5 billion euros in 2013, the report showed.
“It is estimated that the online art market, including online sales by auction houses, dealers and online-only companies, could grow at a rate of at least 25 percent per annum, meaning that they could exceed 10 billion euros by 2020,” the report found.
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