Artprice 2015 Report: Contemporary Art still on the rise

Yves HAYAT - Amy Winehouse - les Icones sont Fatiguées - For Sale on ArtPrice

Yves HAYAT - Amy Winehouse - les Icones sont Fatiguées - Currently for sale on ArtPrice

Artprice has published its annual contemporary art report for the year July 2014 to June 2015, highlighting the unstoppable rise of contemporary art, the “driving force” of the art market, having now definitely toppled modern art from its throne.

The trend has not wavered, contemporary art remains the leader in the auction halls, and the high sales maintain the cost level. The place of contemporary artists in the art world has thus been established, but we mustn’t forget that 68% of the global sales of contemporary art come from 100 artists, and 35% from only 10 of them! The record for total sold lots for a single artist goes to Basquiat, followed by Christopher Wool, whose revenue also exceeds 100 million overtaking Jeff Koons, now in third position. Behind them, Peter Doig and Martin Kippenberger pursue their lead with works selling for more than $20million.

The Artprice report also reveals other telling figures; for instance, $1.76billion of contemporary works were sold at public auctions this year, an increase of 1,800% in the last fifteen years and a decrease of 12% since last year. The sale “Looking Forward to the Past”, a new idea launched by Christie’s that retraces more than a century of modernity, from the impressionists to the most recent artists, has turned over $705.9million, the third highest result in the history of the auction house. Classed as the most powerful auction house in the world, Christie’s constitutes 37% of the total revenue of the global contemporary art market.

The country in pole position is no longer China, the leader for four years, but the United States. The country represents 37% of global revenue with New York brining in 97% of total American sales. Artists of American nationality make up half of the top 10.

The fall of 36.9% in Chinese sales is largely due to the anti-corruption measures of Xi-Jinping, who is discouraging investments in luxury goods. But Chinese contemporary artists remain popular, with Zeng Fanzhi (6th) and Zhu Xinjian (8th) in the top 10 and fifteen others in the top 50. Amongst them, Yang Yan (25th) has even reached a new record in his career, as the most significant of these 17 artists from the period in question, with his Essays on Huang mountain, sold for $10.7 million on 16 December 2014. In the whole market, Chinese artists represent 12.2% of the global revenue (down 21% from 2014), behind the American artists who make up 39.9%.

We also see a solid growth for the United Kingdom, which occupies 23% of global auction sales, while France, in 4th position, makes up only 2% of total sold lots. Along with German artists who represent 10.9% (an increase of 5.8% from 2014) of global revenue, British artists (at 10.8%, up 4.2% from 2014) still occupy a larger place in the market than Chinese artists. London is the second strongest seat of the art market, after New York and in front of the sprawling Chinese megalopolises, bringing in a revenue of $407.27 million, almost double that of Peking, which occupies 3rd place.

Amongst the different mediums, painting largely dominates, comprising 61.2% of the total global revenue, while amongst the others, not one reaches 20%. Drawing, the poor ancient parent of painting, constitutes 17.4% of these sales (down 1.8%), sculpture 15.3% and photography 4.6%. The year’s record for this latter medium was achieved by Cindy Sherman, with a lot of 21 prints from the series Untitled Film Still (1977), which went for $6.7 million on 12 November 2014 at Christie’s New York.

Another figure which looks likely to shatter the elitist stereotype of the contemporary art market is that 64% of the lots sold at auction went for less than $5000. These affordable works form the basis of this market with the lots sold above $80,000 constituting less than 5% of the sold lots. The contemporary art market is thus marked by great disparity, with the most expensive contemporary work of the period, Basquiat’s The Field Next to the Other Road (1981) selling for $37.1 million on 13 May 2015 at Christie’s.

However, the level of unsold items remains relatively high, with 29.3% in New York, 33.6% in London, and particularly 52.1% in Paris. But, the French capital has seen its sales rise by 34.32% from 2014. The French market manages mainly thanks to the presence of the British auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

Although the market for contemporary works seems relatively unstable and subject to different evolutionary factors, it remains an area of profitable investment.

Core topics