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Digital saves art market from Covid-19 shock according to Artprice study

The art market, forced to switch massively to digital, has generally shown the shock of Covid with a loss of only 21% of turnover, discovering new customers and horizons, reveals an Artprice report.

Published annually by the leading information company on the art market, this report covers the results of “Fine Art”: paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, videos, installations, tapestries, to the exclusion of furniture, automobiles, etc.

Under the impact of successive confinements, remote auctions have become the new standard in one year, up to sales entirely online, without an auctioneer. “The art market has rebounded through digital technology, which it has totally invested in, which has made it possible to limit the drop in turnover”, underlines Thierry Ehrmann, president of Artprice, who sees in it a “revolution”.

“It’s a spectacular change that has worked beyond expectations and despite the reluctance of some auction houses” attached to the old face-to-face methods, he told AFP.

The reasons for the limitation of losses? “There is a sociological evolution. Internet auctions bring in new customers, the 30/40 year olds, who did not have access to or did not support the old regime. It is often contemporary art (which weighs heavily) for 16% of the market) that they come to buy. It is the locomotive today. The presentation of works in 3D on the internet is attractive “, he explains.

The evolution is also geographical: “There are no longer any time zones to order. A Belgian or Swedish house, for example, will discover new areas of wealth, customers in Singapore, Indonesia for example”.

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“This market was thirty years behind, it reached a new equilibrium in one year, which the most optimistic projections predicted in 2025”, he congratulated himself.

More people online “also implies more competition”. Very positive sales rate (76%) “is thus based on this renewed audience, coupled with prudent price estimates to be attractive”, underlines the report.

The Chinese performance is impressive: China has returned to first place in the world after four years where the United States had beaten it. It weighs 39% of the “fine art” market against 27% in the United States, where the outbreak of the epidemic has had a strong impact on the market, and 15% in the United Kingdom.

Already, a study published by Artprice in the fall had shown that the Chinese were 395 (against 165 Americans) in the “top 1000” of the most popular artists. “China has been able to create an internal market for itself, with export restrictions, and saw the birth of new auction houses”, notes Thierry Ehrmann. After a first half impacted by containment, digital sales have picked up strongly.

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And, despite its takeover by China, Hong Kong maintains its rank. For example, the American house Sotheby’s achieved a quarter of its turnover there.

In Europe, France is falling back several years with a turnover of 578 million dollars (483 ME) against 827 million $ (691 ME) in 2019, or less 31%. The United Kingdom (-30%) and Italy (-32%) also fell. It is Germany, less affected until the fall by the pandemic, which ends in the green: + 11%.

No auction over $ 100 million in 2020: the best result ($ 84.5 million) went to a triptych of Bacon (Sotheby’s). And Banksy has sold a record number of works (nearly 900).

A strong demand for contemporary figurative painting is observed, especially that linked to Africa, for example by the young Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo.

In a pandemic period and faced with the standardization of objects, “the high-end market is maintained for a lively, joyful and daring figurative painting”, notes Artprice again. Evidenced by the good auctions of Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney, and the records achieved by the Franco-Chinese artist San Yu.

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