Since 2000, the contemporary art market has experienced immense growth. Artprice details in its report of 2017/2018 that the number of transactions since the turn of the millennium has multiplied 5.5 times while global turnover has risen a stunning 1,744% from $103 million USD to $1.9 billion USD in 2017/2018 period. In 2000, the average piece of contemporary art sold for $8,400 USD while today on average a work sells for $28,000 USD.
Those numbers reflect the meteoric rise in the popularity of contemporary art. Also in Artprice’s report, it is clear that this past year was particularly intense, as over the course of one year 66,850 transactions involving contemporary art were recorded. In just one year global turnover went up 19% and the global unsold rate remained stable at 39%.
Those statistics appear to be encouraging, however, there are signs that the market is ready to cool off, and even some speculating that the bubble may burst.
According to the ArtTactic Confidence Indicator for September 2018, confidence in the contemporary art market has dropped 24% despite a 27% increase in contemporary art auction sales during the same month. ArtTactic’s findings suggest “some concerns about the sustainability of the current boom.”
The Antiques Trade Gazette published an article earlier this month expressing their concern that the market bubble could be headed towards a crash.
Lisa Schiff, a US-based art advisor, spoke to the Art Newspaper in order to calm concerns by saying, “I think it’s a good thing for the market to adjust a bit – the art market doesn’t just go up. But, in general, I think it’s really healthy at the moment.”
However, at a Christie’s post-war and contemporary art evening sale, a painting by Gerhard Richter, with an estimated value between $15 and $21 million USD, and a sculpture of Jeff Koons, with an estimated value between $13 and $19 million USD, both failed to sell.
It seems possible that if the contemporary art market is not about to crash, it could be preparing itself to cool off. As mentioned by Lisa Schiff, a temporary slow-down is a very healthy thing, especially considering global political tensions such as the potential for an all-out trade war between China and the USA, as well as the yet unknown ramifications of Brexit on the market. Some slowing right now could help the contemporary art market avoid a larger disaster in the event of a wider economic recession.