The contemporary art market is characterized by its dynamism and constant evolution. Over the past few years, it has witnessed major transformations thanks to technological advancements and shifting cultural and economic landscapes which have revolutionized the way art is created, bought and consumed. In January 2023, in our e-book we predicted a rise in authenticity, AI artworks and greater parity amongst artists. At the close of the first quarter of 2023, let’s reflect on which major trends are shaping the current market and what this might mean for the rest of the year.
1. Continued prevalence of digital art
The NFT market has seen a decline in sales and engagement since its 2021 peak. However, in the first quarter of 2023 it remains a saturated market whose popularity is aided by corporate ventures. In March, Starbucks released a collection of 2,000 NFTs which sold out in 20 minutes. In February this year, the value of NFTs was affirmed by the Centre Pompidou which became the first French museum to buy works of this kind. It added 18 digital artworks to its collection of modern and contemporary art from 13 French and international digital artists.
Jon Rafman, Dream Journal ‘16 -’17, 2016, Installation view © Sprüth Magers
The variety of digital mediums available to artists to create art has continued to rise and encourage innovative and unique artworks. The most recent of these variations is the emergence of AI-generated art. The latest staple in the digital art landscape, there are already exhibitions and gallery shows dedicated to algorithmically generated art such as the Jon Rafman exhibition at Sprüth Magers in London.
2. Focus on sustainability
Sustainability has become a major focus in most industries and the art market is no exception. As artists, collectors and galleries become more conscious of their environmental impact, several initiatives have been taken to promote ethical practices. These involve using sustainable materials, minimizing carbon footprints and investing in carbon offset programs. There has also been a growing focus on education initiatives surrounding the relationship between the art industry and the environment, with the aim of promoting more environmentally and socially responsible methods.
Olafur Eliasson, Life, 2021, Installation View © Artnet
Art fairs have also been key agents in the drive to support wider sustainability, with Art Basel and Frieze amongst the ever expanding list of members of the Gallery Climate Coalition. Although sustainability remains a new focal point of the industry, it is gathering momentum and will only continue to gain importance in the future of the art industry.
3. Continued growth of online art sales
Online art sales have been steadily growing since 2020 and the first quarter of 2023 has continued this trend. The convenience of online sales for collectors and the lower overhead costs involved make online platforms a lucrative and appealing vehicle for art sales. In addition, online sales allow artists and galleries to reach a global audience, in turn boosting visibility and subsequent sale potential. The range of price points offered on online art marketplaces has also widened the number of potential collectors and rejuvenated the market.
Art Basel Online Viewing Room, 2020 © New York Times
As the ubiquity of digital art platforms continues, technology has developed to create the most authentic buying experience. Features such as online viewing rooms and virtual auctions provide an experience which, whilst similar to physical sales, also adapts to the new expectations of collectors, appealing to the younger generations.
4. Increased interest in emerging artists
Eric Odartey, Peace of Mind, 2021 © Artsper
Collectors are increasingly showing interest in emerging artists, particularly those who are using innovative techniques and mediums. These ultra-contemporary artists (artists born after 1975) are proving highly successful in this first quarter. The success of ultra-contemporary artists has been aided by the heightened diversity and parity within the category. As the art world itself expands and becomes more heterogeneous, there has been greater desire for artists which represent various backgrounds. This trend has given rise to a number of new art fairs and exhibitions focused on showcasing the work of up-and-coming artists.
Due to the rapidly cyclical nature of the art market, there is some skepticism within the industry as to whether this trend will continue (according to Artprice, ultra-contemporary artists accounted for 2.7% of global fine art auction turnover last year) or whether this is merely a short-term reflection of the cultural zeitgeist.
5. Growing importance of art as an investment
Money Talk, Running in the Wall Street, 2022 © Artsper
Art has long been considered a valuable investment, and this trend has prevailed in the first quarter of the year. The democratization of the art market and the increased accessibility of art has driven the volume of sales. This has been supported by art investment funds and tax reliefs to encourage the purchase of art. In March, The European Union announced a specialized investment fund worth €24 million to finance cultural and creative industries in Belgium. The neutrality of art as currency has also ensured its resilience in volatile economic markets, making it a key agent in diversifying investment portfolios.
The story so far...
The first quarter of 2023 has already proven itself to be a lively and invigorating chapter for the global art market. The continuance of online sales and prominence of digital art paired with an emerging focus on sustainability and ultra-contemporary artists has created a landscape primed for expansion and innovation. At Artsper, we’re keen to observe the exciting developments ahead for the industry. In the meantime, why not utilize these trends to tailor your gallery’s collections and optimize on the current market?