We remember the trauma last year when Clare McAndrew moved on from the traditional TEFAF report to the mighty Art Basel. For practical purposes, it was not that much of a change other than a shift from one to two yearly macroeconomic reports to run us through the complexity of financial years and the intricacies of figures.

Art Market 2018 Art Market 2018. Courtesy Art Basel

In 2018, we take a step backwards. TEFAF has announced that it’s done with reports. Sob! So now we only have Clare McAndrew’s report for Art Basel and UBS to count on… and it’s just come out. Over 348 pages, the economist gives us the lowdown on sales made by auction houses and dealers. 2017 proved to be positive with turnover growing by 12 % up to nearly 64 billion dollars. The volume of transactions also climbed, even if it’s only by 8 % – also spelling out higher average sales prices! All indicators look good, for auctions as well as galleries – especially when it comes to the upper end.

Here and Now (2016), Luo Mingjun Here and Now (2016), Luo Mingjun. Courtesy Luo Mingjun and Aye Gallery

Confidence has therefore made its return after the uncertainties of 2015 and 2016. The usual countries take the leading positions: the United States (42 %), China (21 %), Great Britain (20 %), then France (7%). Whether we’re talking about collectibles, fine art, modern or contemporary art, all specialities are benefiting from the change.

Here and Now (2016), Luo Mingjun Here and Now (2016), Luo Mingjun. Courtesy Luo Mingjun and Aye Gallery

We also learn that there are around 295,000 dealers around and – obviously – that it’s the galleries generating turnovers upwards of $500,000 who are doing the best. The market is increasingly buoyed by these merchants who now represent nearly 53 % of the global turnover (33.7 billion dollars).

Relief Series B (1967-2017), Charlotte Posenenske Relief Series B (1967-2017), Charlotte Posenenske. Courtesy Charlotte Posenenske and Take Ninagawa

It will come to no surprise to Barnebys regular users to know that online sales are growing. It now represents a good 8% of the total sales of art (5.4 billion dollars) – a fantastic progression (+72%) in just five years. More importantly, online is the channel through which new collectors buy their first works and are introduced to the market; in 2017 more than 40% of online buyers at mid-size or top-tier auction houses were new clients.

1997 Shinjuku #1 (1997), Noguchi Rika 1997 Shinjuku #1 (1997), Noguchi Rika. Courtesy Noguchi Rika and Taka Ishii Gallery

Even for galleries, online is becoming a serious sales channel. 6% of their trade now comes through either their own website (4%) or third-party platforms (2%). Almost half (45%) of their online buyers were new clients to them. Great news that should encourage them to invest in their online presence…

Art Basel Hong Kong 2017 Art Basel Hong Kong 2017. © Art Basel

To find out more, click here to download the full document on the Art Basel web site.