3. Conclusion

Coming out of the restrictions linked to the Covid health crisis, the Contemporary art market experienced two years of phenomenal growth and achieved unprecedented results. The exceptional performances achieved in 2021 and 2022 owed as much to the return of stimulating works to the market as to the fervor of collectors wishing to reconnect with the auction market.

This year the global market is evolving in a more sober climate, mostly evident at the top end of the market where works are valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars all the way up to tens of millions. With a less opulent offer in this segment, 7 or 8-digit transactions have shrunk by 22%. This has of course impacted the global sales turnover from Contemporary art which is down -15% on the previous year’s takings, an expected adjustment following the post-pandemic frenzy.

At the same time, the 22/23 period has been notable for yet another historical record in the volume of works exchanged at auction in this segment of the auction market. International collectors have absorbed more than 123,000 Contemporary works in twelve months, 100 times more than at the start of the millennium. They primarily appreciate painted works, which account for almost half of the results (44% of transactions) and three-quarters of the total global turnover hammered from Contemporary art. As usual, a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat generated the best result of the year: $67 million.

Multi-million-dollar results naturally contribute very substantially to the global total on this segment of the art market, but they only constitute a micro-market reserved for an elite. While prestige results for works by the biggest names in Contemporary art ebb and flow, the rest of the market, and particularly works accessible for less than $5,000, is growing in intensity and volume. These low-end results now represent 80% of the global volume of transactions, i.e. more than 99,000 lots in 22/23. In the United States, the UK, Hong Kong and various European countries, the Contemporary art market is based on solid demand.

Collectors are also very keen to discover and acquire works by new artists. In the exciting Ultra-contemporary segment, transactions are up 30% compared with the 12-month period prior to the Covid crisis. Bidders remain eminently active for works valued at less than $50,000 and, if they are currently avoid bidding wars at the higher price levels, they are perfectly willing to engage in daring bids for a number of young painters or for the pioneers of digital art who are already considered to be the artists most in-tune with the era we currently live in.

The intensity and enthusiasm of global demand demonstrates how the passion for art is an essential breath of fresh air, including – and perhaps especially – in the face of the geopolitical, economic, climatic and health uncertainties that are shaking our times.