Geographic developments in the market

The Art Market is today globalized with live sales that allow auction houses to reach collectors from all over the world at the same event. Although – technically speaking – the whole world can participate in such sales, the global map of the art market is constantly shifting, sometimes to the point of reversing certain balances of power.

London increasingly squeezed

In London, where 96% of the UK’s art auction turnover is hammered, the main players in the market – Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips – have seen their results decline in recent years. The contraction versus 2022 (-16%) is not particularly worrying in itself as it is cyclical and common to several major market places, but if we look back further we see a less positive picture.

Over five years, London’s art auction turnover has dropped 35% and if we compare it to 2008 (its highest level at $3.4 billion) it has dropped by approximately 50%. Meanwhile, the volume of art auction turnover has been gradually rising in Paris (since Brexit) and in Hong Kong it has tripled in fifteen years. London’s loss of momentum stems from the fact that it is no longer only in competition with New York for the dispersal of very fine works; it is also increasingly competing with Paris and Hong Kong.

Asian collectors, particularly Chinese, play an important role in the sale of the most expensive works. Sotheby’s reports, for example, that 32% of collectors who have placed bids on works of art exceeding $1 million over the past five years are Asian, a share almost equal to that of American collectors and slightly higher than that of Europeans. For example, the most expensive work sold in London in 2023, Klimt’s Lady with a Fan, was acquired by Patti Wong for $108.39 million on behalf of a Hong Kong collector.

While London remains an essential market place for the top quality works, particularly Modern and 20th Century art, the main auction houses are investing heavily elsewhere, thereby modifying the landscape of the global art market, particularly in Asia.

Hong Kong’s confirms its power of attraction

The second Chinese city after Beijing in terms of art auction turnover, Hong Kong’s auction rooms hammered over $1.5 billion in 2023. After the lifting of Covid restrictions, a renewed energy was reflected in the city’s spring sales and its turnover rose sharply by 33.7% compared with 2022. This progression was driven by superb works by artists of Chinese origin like Zhang Daqian and San Yu as well as by Western masterpieces by Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso and a number of Ultra-contemporaries.

Several sales sessions brought together particularly desirable works, notably Christie’s selections for 20th and 21st Century Art in May and November. One of the jewels of these sales was SAN Yu’s Femme nue sur un tapis (Nude on Tapestry) which fetched $24 million, one of the artist’s top-ten auction results. On 28 November, Christie’s hosted a small live auction titled Post-Millennium in collaboration with Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou that raised $15.2 million, a third of which ($5.5 million) came from a painting by Adrian GHENIE titled Lidless Eye inspired by Van Gogh’s iconic Self-portrait. Very popular among Asian buyers, the Romanian artist owes his personal auction record to a Christie’s Hong Kong sale in 2022 when his Pie Fight Interior 12 (2014) fetched $10.3 million.

The sale commemorating Sotheby’s 50th anniversary in Asia totaled $85 million, including $32 million for Pink Lotuses on Gold Screen by ZHANG Daqian. It was the artist’s third-best auction result; his best and second-best were also hammered at Sotheby’s. A superb work by Joan Miró set a new record for the artist in Asia after a bidding battle of nearly 20 minutes and a work by Yayoi Kusama set a new record in sculpture for the artist at $7.9 million (Pumpkin (L), 2014). Other remarkable results were hammered for works by women artists, Louise Bonnet, Lucy Bull, Loie Hollowell and Lynne Drexler, substantially above their estimates. The other highlight of Sotheby’s Asia was the dispersal of the collection belonging to the billionaire founders of the Long Museum in Shanghai, Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei. The session set an auction record for MODIGLIANI in Asia (even if the superb Paulette Jourdain was expected to fetch a few million dollars more) and generated the best-ever sales total for a private collection sold in Asia at $69.5 million.

In 2023, Sotheby’s was the top performing art auctioneer in Hong Kong with $531 million (14% of its global fine art turnover) while Christie’s hammered $408 million (11% of its global fine art turnover) in the city. If we add Phillips’s fast-growing Hong Kong activity, the cumulative result of the three auction companies exceeded one billion dollars and accounted for 67.5% of Hong Kong’s art auction market in 2023, substantially ahead of the main Chinese players, China Guardian and Poly International.

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) Paulette Jourdain (1919)

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Paulette Jourdain (1919)
$34.8 million, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, October 5, 2023


The third non-Chinese auction house in Hong Kong, Phillips is entering a new era. Having inaugurated its Asian headquarters in Hong Kong in the spring, it is becoming a more serious competitor in the region. The company hosted its first auction on the Asian market in 2015 before establishing itself in Shanghai in 2018 and then establishing a strategic cooperation with the Chinese auction house Yongle in 2022, in order to pool their resources and develop their markets. At the end of March, Phillips hosted its inaugural art sale of 20th Century and Contemporary Art in its new Hong Kong headquarters, taking a total of $45 million, an increase of 65% compared with the previous year.

In March, Phillips opened its new Asian headquarters in a beautiful building in Hong Kong.

In 2023, Phillips generated 17.4% ($100 million) of its global art auction turnover in Hong Kong and its overall performance in the city was 6% better than the previous year. The upside potential would appear to be substantial as the company is banking on the growing number of young collectors (from mainland China or Hong Kong itself) who are strongly interested in Contemporary Art, the segment where Phillips is most specialized.

Geographic distribution of Fine Art + NFT auction turnover hammered by Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips (2023)

Geographic distribution of Fine Art + NFT auction turnover hammered by Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips (2023)


India: the surprise of the year

The Indian art market has shown relatively discreet growth on an international scale, with the acceleration in its art auction turnover being mainly driven by the major Indian signatures of the 20th century like Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Sayed Haider Raza and Tyeb Mehta. In 2023, works by all these artists generated results above the million-dollar threshold.

However, it is a female artist, India’s ‘national treasure’ Amrita SHER-GIL – whose career was short, but dense (she died at the age of 28) – who elicited India’s best result of the year for her The story teller (1937). Sold for $7.4 million, the painting dethroned a previous auction record hammered in New York in 2015, generating the best art auction result ever hammered in India.

Top 10 artists by auction turnover in India (2023)

Artist Sales proceeds Lots sold Unsold lots Maximum price
1 Sayed Haider RAZA $15,171,560 49 0 $6,258,650
2 Raja RAVI VARMA (1848-1906) $14,642,680 8 0 $5,286,830
3 Francis Newton SOUZA (1924-2002) $11,536,120 70 5 $4,172,430
4 Vasudeo S. GAITONDE (1924-2001) $8,550,860 9 1 $5,745,600
5 Tyeb MEHTA (1925-2009) $8,506,250 7 1 $3,573,910
6 Maqbool Fida HUSAIN (1915-2011) $7,947,630 76 9 $870,750
7 Amrita SHER-GIL (1913-1941) $7,872,830 10 0 $7,432,690
8 Akbar PADAMSEE (1928-2020) $6,745,790 19 0 $3,107,000
9 Ram KUMAR (1924-2018) $4,611,320 74 1 $595,650
10 Manjit BAWA (1941-2008) $3,591,990 9 0 $3,011,090
© Artprice


The vitality of the Indian market was also surprising in other respects, notably for its exceptional sold-through rate above 95% when the global average (China included) was 62%. The supply was tight (less than 2,200 lots offered in 2023) but perfectly adjusted to a competitive demand, and it gave India seventh place in our global ranking of countries by their art auction turnover. The $152 million hammered over the year represented a sharp increase of 76% versus 2022, which was already a record year.

Amrita SHER-GIL (1913-1941) The Story teller (1937)

Amrita SHER-GIL (1913-1941)
The Story teller (1937)
$7.4 million, Saffronart Bombay, September 16, 2023