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Art Market Geography: Which markets shine today?

· Art Market

The power of China, record sales in New York, billionaire collectors from the Middle East, or the rush to buy African art... International art market trends often make the headlines. But do you really know which regions stand out, which cities have particularly shone in recent years? Artsper offers you an overview of the different marketplaces that attract today's collectors.

Historical leaders

The United States and Europe have always dominated the international art market. New York, London and Paris have been in the top 5 for decades (Artprice 2003, 2012, 2022). The reason? An exceptionally rich offer, in quality but also in quantity, and hegemonic economic and political positions for centuries. Until the beginning of the 21st century, Europe and the United States reigned supreme on the art market.

The record-breaking sale of Andy Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, which sold for $195 million in May 2022, at Christie's New York © Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

The existence of a more globalized market, as we know it today, was born following multiple waves of globalization of art. The last one is associated with two simultaneous events: the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Paris International Biennale in the same year, which was widely perceived as a step towards the universalization of Western art. In the following decades, China and Russia gained prominence on the international scene.

China, an exceptional growth

China specialist Philip Dodd sees a recurring pattern among collectors from emerging regions. They start by buying historical objects from their own culture, usually from Western collections, in a spirit of re-appropriation. Then they turn to local contemporary creation, before finally investing in international art.

China accounted for 20% of the world market in 2021 © Art Basel and UBS 2022

A perfect illustration of this phenomenon is China, which has experienced exceptional growth in just a few decades. It now occupies the second place on the international market podium, just after the United States. It especially experienced a dazzling peak between 2000 and 2011 (going from 1% to 30% of market share and even surpassing the USA in 2011) before seeing the Western markets take over. But China is still experiencing baffling growth spurts year after year. In 2021, for example, and despite the global pandemic, art sales increased by 35%. Moreover, the country is opening an impressive and constant number of new infrastructures (museums, auction houses, exhibition spaces), both private and public (Art Basel et UBS, 2022).

In 2011, China reached the peak of its meteoric rise and even surpassed the United States in sales figures © Art Basel and UBS 2022 / Art Economics

Today, thanks to the sales of works by the greatest international artists in Beijing and Hong Kong, and the rising popularity of artists from the mainland, China is definitely one of the most powerful and important marketplaces in the world.

Asia outside of China, emerging markets

Outside of China, other Asian markets are gradually making their way as important players. For example, Hong Kong is one of the most dynamic cities in the art world, and Japan and South Korea are following closely behind based on the same model. In 2021, Korea entered the top 10 international marketplaces, having quadrupled its sales figures in two years. Taiwan is also breaking into this podium, although its growth is less impressive (Artprice 2021).

The sails of Korean success are inflated by the dynamism of young local collectors, and by the presence of prestigious institutions and international dealers: Frieze set foot in Seoul from September 2 to 5. But the boom of the Korean market is also based on its exceptional offer: Korean artists are on a roll, as shown by the explosive popularity of names like Kim Whan-Ki, Lee Ufan, Kim Tschang-Yeul and Park Seo-Bo (Artprice 2021).

The prices for works by Kim Tschang-Yeul and Lee Ufan have seen an exponential rise in recent years - a testament to the growing global interest in Korean artists. © Artprice 2022

In India, Bombay is the auction capital: Christie's and Sotheby's have chosen to set up shop there and their sales of South Asian art are achieving very good results (Artprice 2019). As for fairs, New Delhi dominates: India Art Fair was a great success in its 2022 edition. Today's collectors greatly favor Indian art over international art (Artprice 2019), which is consistent with the recurring motif of emerging markets.

The booth of Project 88 gallery at the 2022 edition of India Art Fair © India Art Fair

Singapore, on the other hand, is enjoying a resurgence of power. Indeed, Hong Kong's health situation and its political and economic relations with mainland China, which have been less favorable in the last two years, have caused many people to flee to the city-state. A trend that market players have not let pass: Sotheby's organized its first major sale in 15 years at the end of August 2022.

France, a recent reconquest

France has been in 4th place in the international ranking for several years. It lost its dominant position to the English-speaking powers in the 1950s, especially New York, which had welcomed many artists who had fled during the Second World War. In 2010, Artprice's annual report dedicated a chapter to the inevitable decline of France in the international market, announcing that its strategic errors have made it a country perceived as a granary full of affordable works. The French capital is associated with a conservative market, resistant to progress, not very inclusive of international artists and dealers. In short, an excellent destination for its museums, but not a commercial powerhouse.

In 2021, France is the second most dynamic country in the international art market in terms of transaction volume, behind the United States. © Artprice 2022

A decade later, in 2021 and 2022, the wheel turns: London is cut off from the European market, and market players flock to the French capital. Paris gains unprecedented strength: the opening of the Bourse de Commerce - Pinault , but also numerous branches of international galleries (among them the titans Hauser & Wirth) illustrate a refreshing dynamism. Not to mention the new Art Basel Group fair, Paris+, which will take over the Grand Palais Éphémère in October 2022 in place of the FIAC.

Model of Hauser & Wirth’s planned gallery façade in Paris, Rue François 1er in the prestigious 8th arrondissement © AD Magazine / Hauser & Wirth

Latin America’s promises

Latin America, more discreet on the world stage, maintains good results. With international fairs such as SP-Arte in Sao Paulo and Art Rio, as well as the historic Sao Paulo Biennial, Brazil has one of the most dynamic offerings.

Mexico is also on the upswing with the major Zona Maco fair in Mexico City and many high profile galleries and collectors in the country.

From 2018 to 2023, Latin America's contribution to the global market is expected to increase by almost 20%. © Statista

Uruguay is also emerging in international interest, with the help of important galleries such as Xippas gallery in Montevideo (also influential in Paris and Geneva). Not to mention the rising popularity of contemporary names - Pablo Atchugarry, for example, whose works are never lacking in fairs and who has just opened the country's first permanent museum of contemporary art.

Moreover, the 2022 edition of the Armory Show in New York is dedicating its program to Latin American and Latinx artists. Further proof that Latin American artistic creation is attracting international interest!

Africa: dynamic hubs

The 1-54 fair, the world's leading contemporary African art fair, was held in the prestigious salons of Christie's in Paris © 1-54

It is difficult to speak of a single African art market, as the continent is made up of so many different countries and cultures. For this reason, it is necessary to look at certain cities as independent regional markets.

Several factors nevertheless demonstrate a strong and growing trend for African art on the international scene. In 2016, for example, Sotheby's opened a new department entirely dedicated to it, and the Financial Times announced a particularly promising Kenyan market. The specialized fair 1-54, which takes place every year in New York, London and Marrakech, inaugurated its first edition in Paris in 2021. This fair (as well as the next one in 2022) has already won the hearts of collectors who are expressing a growing demand for African art and its diasporas. Finally, auction sales confirm this: numerous records have been broken for contemporary African artists over the last three years (Julie Mehretu, El Anatsui, Ben Enwonwu and Samuel Fosso, among many others) and dedicated sales organized by the major houses have achieved very good performances.

The work Vumedi, by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, sold for £1 million at Sotheby's in October 2020. © CNN / John Phillips / Getty Images for Sotheby's

In the absence of government support and solid international public infrastructure, it is private money - particularly from the West - that is driving the trend. Thus, the cities of Marrakech, Accra, Dakar, Lagos, Cape Town and Addis Ababa have been identified by an Artnet study as the promising hubs of the continent, due to the influence of their galleries and their artists on the international scene.

Geography of the art market: A complex and fluctuating evolution

From one year to the next, the art market has evolved according to socio-economic trends and upheavals. While Europe, China and the United States have maintained their dominant position over the rest of the world for several years, new marketplaces are gaining in importance. Experts often speak of the regionalization of the art market, and if the trends in Asia, Latin America and Africa are to be believed, it would seem that we are moving towards a plurality of the art world. Thus, if the globalization of the market is well underway, it does not go hand in hand with homogenization. Something to look forward to in the future!

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