Global Art Sales Dropped 4 Percent to $65 B. in 2023

Global Art Sales Dropped Only 4 Percent to $65 B. in 2023, According to the Annual Art Market Report by Art Basel and UBS.

Mar 14, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
sotheby-s-headquarters, Global Art Sales
Sotheby’s worldwide headquarters on York Avenue, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, via Wikimedia Commons.


Global art sales 2023 witnessed only a 4% decline in market value to an anticipated $65 billion, according to the annual art market report published by Art Basel and UBS. There were many challenges, such as low auction sales hitting both sides of the Atlantic. Also, there was a distinct paucity of headline estates on the block. This figure, however, is higher than the paper’s pre-pandemic forecast for 2019 of $64.4 billion.


The US Leads Global Art Sales

Sotheby’s auctioneer during the March 2 ‘Now’ Evening sale in London.


The study’s author, economist Clare McAndrew, ascribed the fall to a variety of factors. Overall, these factors include high interest rates, rising inflation, and global unrest. All numbered attributed to a decrease in sales, especially at the high end of the market (artworks selling for $10 million or more). “It was inevitable that things would slow down a little bit, considering how remarkable the post-Covid bounce back was”, McAndrew explained.


“But you don’t need a lot of those $50 million–$100 million plus sales to make a big difference. They do put a big dent in it both ways. Luckily, this isn’t a dramatic contraction of the sort we saw in 2014 or 2009. This is a much more normal, more natural dip that reflects the context of the time”, the economist further explained. Aside from lower eight- and nine-figure revenues last year, McAndrew said rising company costs will be a big problem in 2023.


Cécile Verdier, President of Christie’s Paris selling Joan Mitchell’s Sans titre. Courtesy Christie’s.


The rising interest rates that impacted collectors’ purchasing capacity at the top level prompted dealers to alter their attention from sales to revenue. Also, from expansion to sustainability. Analysing regional patterns, the survey revealed that the United States maintained its spot as the top global art market. It accounted for 42% of sales by value, despite a 3% decrease year on year.

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The UK Now Dropped to Third Place

Christie’s in King Street, St James’s, via Wikimedia Commons.


Unsurprisingly, China eclipsed the United Kingdom as the world’s second-largest market, accounting for 19% of the total. Sales in China grew by 9% to a projected $12.2 billion. It improved thanks to the relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in the country. Also, thanks to a thriving auction sector brimming with goods from postponed sales, and the debut of many new art events in Asia. Meanwhile, the UK dropped to third position with a 17 percent share of the market.


Its sales fell by 8% to $10.9 billion in 2023. According to the survey, the country’s deteriorating global position is likely caused by a dramatic decline in high-value evening sales. The data reported a 3% decrease in dealer sales to $36.1 billion last year. Art fairs represented for 29% of dealer revenues, a 6% decrease from 2022, but a 27% increase over the COVID-19-era low of 2021.


Christie’s American branch at Rockefeller Center in New York. Via Wikipedia.


Online sales rose 7% to $11.8 billion, highlighting the expanding role of digital channels in enabling art transactions. Looking ahead to 2024, the research says dealers are cautiously optimistic, with 36% expecting increased sales and only 16% expecting a decrease. Nonetheless, many dealers said the future appears bleak, with political and economic uncertainty lurking over the industry, and the cost of preserving customer connections and participating in art shows among the most pressing issues.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.