Art And Culture

High-End Art Sales Boom in 2017

High-End Art Sales Boom in 2017
High-End Art Sales Boom in 2017

The works of great artists buoyed the art market last year and none did more than Leonardo da Vinci, whose ‘Salvator Mundi’ sold to great fanfare for $450 million in New York in November.

Global art sales grew 12% to an estimated $63.7 billion after two years of falling sales, said a report published by Art Basel, a privately owned and managed international art fair staged annually in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach, Florida; and Hong Kong.

That still fell short of the record of over $68 billion set in 2014 and below $66 billion achieved in 2007 before the art market plummeted during the financial crisis.

“Industry-wide gains were driven by sales at the top end of the market,” Reuters quoted cultural economist Clare McAndrew, who wrote the report.  Over the past decade, auction sales have fallen for works priced under $1 million, making investment purchases a risky gamble for the lower and middle price segments.

But purchases of ultra-expensive artworks soared in value, with the study finding a 148% increase in total sales value of works sold for over $10 million at auction over the past 10 years and a 125% increase over just one year.

Indeed, the study found that just 1% of artists whose works were offered at auction accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total auction sales. The research indicates that, like wealth—half of which remained in the hands of the top 1% in 2017—the art market has become top heavy. The Salvator Mundi painting was only recently rediscovered after being sold at auction for 45 pounds, attributed to one of Da Vinci’s students, in 1958.

Art dealers took a gamble on the damaged and partially covered work, paying $10,000 in 2005 before restoring and verifying it for an $80 million resale in 2013. It was flipped to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $127 million later that same year. 2017 also set a new record for the late American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat whose untitled painting sold to Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa for $110.5 million in May. A work by Roy Liechtenstein fetched $165 million in a private sale.  “This divergence in performance is a continuing concern, particularly as the majority of employment and ancillary spending comes from the very many other businesses in the art trade below the top tier,” McAndrew said.

The largest art markets were also those with the highest numbers of millionaires, with the five largest markets accounting for two-thirds of the world’s millionaire population.


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