Artprice: Contemporary Art Market Annual Report: turnover up 1,400% in 17 years with an average annual return of +7.6%.

[27 Sep 2017]

Contemporary Art leads the Art Market with Frieze Art Fair in London and the FIAC in Paris

On the whole, the Contemporary Art Market is substantially profitable over the medium and long terms. Despite several corrections, our price index shows that the segment has retained its early-2000s vitality. Turnover growth of +1,400% in 17 years (US$103 million in 2000 to US$1.58 billion in 2017) reflects an extremely dynamic market. Artprice’s Contemporary Art Market Annual Report (2016/2017) is available free of charge at the following link:

The chronic financial and economic crisis affecting the world economy since 2007 – clearly illustrated by the widespread recourse to negative interest rates – makes the Art Market look like a desert oasis. According to thierry Ehrmann, Artprice’s founder and CEO, the Art market has experienced a healthy adjustment that was both necessary and predictable, leaving the Contemporary Art segment center stage.

This year, the Contemporary Art Market generated a stunning new record with its first-ever result above $100 million. The segment’s previous record, $58.4 million for a work by Jeff Koons in 2013, was demolished by the $110.5 million paid for a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“Contemporary Art has emerged as the art market’s primary locomotive, a role historically played by Modern art, and its figures confirm the general trends outlined and analysed in Artprice’s latest semi-annual Art Market Report published in August 2017, online at

The abundance of auction results has induced the construction of Contemporary art prices into a perfectly structured process. Supply and demand now take into account all available information, including event-triggered information, which has a substantial impact on actual prices.

News of any kind (Artprice has identified over 70 exogenous factors) is now almost immediately integrated into artists’ prices and price indices. As a consequence of this new reality, the evolution of our Global Top 500 artists, all of whom enjoy relatively solid and firmly established markets, clearly shows a coherent and structured evolution of the market, as well as revealing the preferences of art collectors and art professionals.

In most cases the acquisition of a Contemporary artwork is made in the absence of History’s final verdict on the value of the artist who created it. However, the last 17 years have shown that a well-diversified portfolio of Contemporary artworks generates an average annual yield of +7.6%, substantially higher than the art market as a whole.


Contemporary Art: works created by artists born after 1945
Fine Art: painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video, prints, installations
Period concerned: July 2016 – June 2017

Key figures:

1. 57,100 Contemporary artworks sold at auction last year (+3.8%), with every result integrated into Artprice’s database.

2. $1.58 billion in auction turnover versus $1.5 billion for the previous period.

3. +1,400% turnover growth since the year 2000.

4. US turnover of $690 million confirms its place as global leader, far ahead of China’s $370 million.

5. The UK has been relegated to third place with $348 million.

6. France, fourth with $38 million, generated 2.4% of global auction turnover, down 9.5%.

7. Painting, which accounted for 72% of the total, remains collectors’ preferred medium, followed by sculpture (11%).

8. The museum industry – opening over 700 new museums per year – is contributing to a rarefaction of the Art market and provides a solid economic reality for artworks, accepted by a broad consensus.

9. Today, museums, art fairs and artistic events of all types are increasingly proving that Contemporary art engages with the general public and is no longer the preserve of a privileged class.

Brand new report

Available for free online, the new 2017 Artprice Report exploits its Decision Support Systems to combine five analyses that shed light on the development, organisation and latest trends in the Contemporary Art Market. Five studies that explore the market’s most sensitive topics and provide insight for art consumers, collectors, professionals and institutions active on the Contemporary Art Market.

1. Return to a growth path

Sales of Contemporary art are leading the recovery of the Art Market. The concentration of sales in the world’s major financial capitals is pitting collectors from all over the world against each other and ensuring long-term price growth.

2. Current trends

Carried by efficient marketplaces, Chinese and American artists dominate the high-end of the market. However other nationalities have a strong presence; notably German and African artists.

3. Enthusiasm for Street Art

With a number of historical signatures now fetching excellent prices and the growing popularity of a new generation of artists, the market for Street Art is becoming structured and international. It is currently a particularly dynamic segment. A recent survey suggests that one in three Europeans are willing to invest in Contemporary art (Artprice).

4. Towards gender parity in the Art Market

With the world’s Top 500 Contemporary artists (by auction turnover) dominated by men (86%), female artists at the market’s high-end are clearly undervalued. Efforts are currently underway to eliminate this discrepancy.

5. Financial attractiveness of Contemporary Art

With an average annual return of +7.6%, Contemporary Art is a particularly competitive long-term investment which requires a constant eye on news and events that impact art values.

The Top 500 Contemporary artists

The individual auction performances of the world’s Top 500 artists paint an interesting picture of the Contemporary Art Market. The ranking – which reflects extraordinary market diversity – allows us to follow competition between the market’s stars and reveals the latest collector preferences. The strong Chinese presence in the Top 500 shows that China’s art market covers all segments of the Art Market (for the Art Market as a whole, China was again the leading geographical marketplace in 2017, ahead of the USA).

The acquisition of Contemporary Art (15% of the global market vs. only 2.8% in 2000) requires a different approach to the acquisition of Impressionist or Modern artworks. The prices and indices for a Contemporary artist are in fact continuously subjected to the influence of event-driven news, which ultimately makes them more volatile.

In order to apprehend this reality, Artprice – the world leader in Art Market Information – has developed, with the help of its econometrics department, its editorial team and its art historians, a new method of analysis and decision-support tools that make it easier to understand and interpret price evolutions.

The clichéd notion of the ‘wretched’ artist living in poverty seems completely outdated and the old saying “only a dead artist is a good artist” is now itself a relic of the past. This ninth report (2014/2015) digs deep into the heart of these fascinating historical developments.

Another observation worth celebrating is that Contemporary artists are again playing the role so well defined by the philosopher Giorgio Agamben: “A Contemporary artist is someone who accepts to look directly into the obscure beam of his era.”In the modern world’s standardised and globalised village, the Contemporary artist adds that extra depth of soul and breadth of consciousness that we are all constantly seeking.

Copyright thierry Ehrmann 1987/2017