Art market performance 2020

By Tempus | 12 Feb 2021 | Culture

Red Eight Gallery’s creative director Matthew Admans talks about how the challenges of 2020 have made the art world more dynamic and accessible than ever before

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Despite the challenges and hardships of the past year, 2020 has arguably been one of the most dynamic and transformational years for the art market. Social distancing requirements have driven galleries, auction houses and collectors to embrace the internet like never before. This has in turn made the art world more accessible, with greater numbers able to attend online auctions and exhibitions. 

There’s no denying that the market was hit hard in the first half of 2020, with closures of art fairs and exhibitions the world over and auction sales significantly depressed. Yet the art market has proved its resilience by bouncing back fast and rapidly adapting to radically changed circumstances. Sales in the second half of the year were 4.5% higher than the last six months of 2019 according to ArtTactic research and analysis.

What we’ve seen here at Red Eight Galley is the metamorphosis of the art world into an entity that is more innovative, more digital, and consequently more open to new and younger buyers. Online-only art sales began to gather pace over the first half of the year, with particular success over the summer as the leading auction houses devoted more resources to this thriving sales channel. At Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips, online sales between January and August in 2020 rose to $596.7m – up from $168.2m for all of 2019.  

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Looking at the overall market share, the rapid advance of online art sales becomes even clearer; in the first half of 2020 the share of online sales rose from 10% of total sales in 2019 to 37% in the first half of 2020. According to the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2020, online sales of art and collectibles totalled a record $4.82bn last year. 

Part of the momentum behind online art sales is coming from younger and newer collectors making their first forays into the art world from the comfort of their own laptop or smartphone. Compared to 2019 the number of new buyers attending Christie’s online sales increased by 89%, and first-time online buyers were up 228% year-on-year. These newer and younger buyers are also embracing non-traditional platforms like Instagram to view and discover art on their own terms. 

These powerful trends are also helping to transform the composition of the art market by giving greater exposure to emerging artists. Up until recently artists would have to work closely with a gallery and exhibit widely to build up their reputation, but today it is easier than ever for emerging artists to grow a loyal following on social media without the endorsement of big-name galleries. 

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As well as embracing the online world as a medium to discover, view and buy art, the pandemic has also created new opportunities for innovation. At Red Eight Gallery we have expanded our unique corporate leasing initiative, a unique service which adds significant value to our clients’ investments. Client artworks are leased to corporate clients including hotels and office spaces in return for a fixed fee. Heading into 2021 we will continue to expand this service so more clients can benefit from this lucrative opportunity and unlock even greater value from their investment. 

While it’s too early to predict the trajectory of 2021, the future looks bright. The pressures of Covid-19 have accelerated existing trends towards online sales and brought renewed vigour and innovation to the art world.  The result is a market that is ready to move forward and is in a stronger position now to achieve robust growth than it was pre-pandemic.  

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Here at Red Eight Gallery, we are looking forward to opening our doors later this year which will provide the perfect backdrop to several exciting collaborations with our partner artists. The gallery will also continue to support emerging talent with new artists coming onboard throughout the year. I look forward very much to welcoming you to our new home as soon as it is safe to do so. 

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