Artprice’s 2015/16 Contemporary Art Market Report

[04 Oct 2016]

Artprice: Contemporary Art Market Annual Report: + 1,370% in 16 years, generating an average annual return of 5.6%

Contemporary art leads the art market with Frieze Art Fair and Fiac
On the whole, the Contemporary art market is substantially profitable over the medium and long terms. Despite several adjustments and corrections, our price index shows that the segment has retained the vitality it acquired in the early 2000s. Its 1,370% turnover growth in 16 years reflects an extremely dynamic market.

The Artprice Contemporary Art Market Annual Report (2015/2016) is freely available at the following link :

The chronique financial and economic crisis affecting the world since 2007, prompting widespread recourse to negative rates, has made the Art Market look like an oasis in the desert. According to thierry Ehrmann, Artprice’s founder and CEO, the market is undergoing an orderly period of adjustment that was both necessary and predictable, and Contemporary Art has clearly occupied the center stage.
In this context Contemporary art has emerged as the powerhouse of the art market as a whole, a role historically played by Modern art. In fact, the figures for the Contemporary art segment anticipate the general trends outlined and analysed in Artprice’s latest semi-annual Art Market Report released in August 2016 (freely download at ).

Thanks to the abundance of auction sales results, prices in the Contemporary art market are today perfectly structured. More than ever before, supply and demand takes into account all available information, including event-triggered information that can have 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.

Hence the annual evolution of our world ranking of the top 500 artists by auction turnover – who all enjoy relatively robust and firmly established markets – clearly shows a coherent and structured market as well as revealing the preferences of collectors and art professionals.
In buying Contemporary works of art, collectors and art consumers consciously accept that they cannot know what History will make of the artists they acquire. However, the last sixteen years have shown that a well-diversified portfolio of Contemporary artworks generates an annual yield of 5.6%, higher than the art market as a whole.

Contemporary Art: artists born after 1945
Fine Art: painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video, prints, installations
Period concerned: July 2015 – June 2016

Key figures:

  1. 55,000 Contemporary artworks sold at auction last year with every result integrated into Artprice’s database.
  2. $1.5 billion in auction turnover versus $2 billion in the previous period
  3. 1,370% turnover growth since the year 2000
  4. The United States’ turnover of $582 million confirms its place as global leader, far ahead of China’s $362 million
  5. The UK is second with $400 million
  6. France, fourth with $42 million, generated 3% of global auction turnover from Contemporary Fine Art
  7. Painting, which accounted for 67% of the total, remains collectors’ preferred medium, followed by sculpture (15%)
  8. The museum industry – opening over 700 new museums per year – contributes to a healthy de-saturation of the market and provides a solid consensus-based economic reality for the art market
  9. In the modern world, museums, art fairs and artistic events of all types are increasingly proving that Contemporary art is now engaged with the general public and is no longer the preserve of a privileged class.

Brand new report

Available free online, the new 2016 Artprice Report employs five decision-support tools to elucidate the development, organisation and latest trends in the Contemporary art market. Five studies that delve into the market’s most sensitive topics and answer questions of art consumers, collectors, professionals and institutions active on the Contemporary art market.

A. Short, medium and long-term track record
Given the unstable economic environment, the major auctioneers have reorganized their sales around the middle market. After twelve months of adjustment, we are seeing the first signs of a recovery with the Contemporary art price index bouncing back in H1 2016.

B. Market geography and market economics
Although New York and London generate the bulk of Contemporary art auction turnover, some smaller markets in Europe and Asia have posted good growth. Meanwhile, we may be seeing a movement towards market concentration among the world’s major auction houses (i.e. Sotheby’s and China Guardian…).

C. Yield, risk and liquidity
Highly profitable in the long run, Contemporary art now rivals Post-War art as a financial investment. On the other hand, this creative period is subject to a level of volatility that requires careful and prudent management.

D. Market restructuring
Auction Houses have temporarily abandoned the race for records to refocus on more affordable works, thereby ensuring price stability, transaction volumes and market liquidity. In the last year, the Contemporary art market has proved its robustness and maturity.

E. Trends and performances
The recent adjustment period has underscored the maturity of art collectors and confirmed the utility of a mature market. The past year saw the market narrow its focus onto Contemporary Art’s safer investments, while a number of new young artists have received the blessings of major cultural institutions.

The Top 500 Contemporary artists
The individual auction performances of the world’s Top 500 artists paints an interesting picture of the Contemporary art market. The ranking – which reflects the extraordinary diversity of the market – allows us to follow competition between the market’s stars and reveals the latest preferences of collectors. 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 returned to the leader position, ahead of the USA, in H1 2016).

The acquisition of Contemporary art (12% 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 for Art Market information – has developed, in conjunction with 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.

Contrary to certain myths, the price structuring processes at work in the Contemporary art market are in fact extremely sophisticated. As thierry Ehrmann said in 1999 during the course of a financial seminar in New York, “the Art Market is ten times more cruel than the financial markets, and ten times smarter”. copyright 1987-2016 thierry Ehrmann