Art Basel and UBS Report: Slowing Growth in spite of Major Success


Despite a year of high-profile successes, the global art market only managed to generate sales of $67.8 billion in 2022, marking the highest level since 2014 but not as high as what had been expected. This finding is according to the latest Art Basel/UBS Art Market report released recently. Clare McAndrew, founder of the Arts Economics consultancy and author of the annual report, notes that this muted growth was due to the top-heavy and fragmented nature of the market which was fighting against a challenging macroeconomic environment.

Highlighted by the collection of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen fetching $1.6 billion at Christie’s, 2020 saw sales of art-related Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) dropping by half to $1.5 billion. In the global rankings, it was a battle between the UK and China for the second spot. The former edged out the latter to crown the runner-up with a 5% growth in sales, achieving a market share of 18%. In contrast, sales in China fell by 14%, with the billionaire population decreasing 27%.

The US market dominated with a 45% market value share, being driven out of New York and seeing an 8% growth in sales. This was where 41 of the top 50 auctioned lots were sold, among which Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” (1964) for $195 million including fees. McAndrew identifies the art market into two parts; auctions, mostly public but including private sales by auction houses too, and dealers. The latter sector is made up of nearly 300,000 businesses in 2022, accounting for a 55% market share, while sales increase by 7%.

It was a stark contrast to the public auction market, where sales fell by 2% despite seeming to be a bumper year. In addition, the trend of polarisation of the art market towards higher-priced items continued with sales of artworks over $10 million increasing by 12% and taking up 32% of the market value, but only half of its volume in the same year. Art businesses are feeling the pinch of the cost of operations, with shipping being a major cost at 40% of expenditure, almost double the pre-pandemic percentage. With the art industry navigating choppy economic waters, it is clear that businesses are not being complacent and are looking for ways forward.

Art Basel is an internationally renowned annual art fair held in Basel, Switzerland. Founded in 1970 by gallerists from Basel and Zürich, the show is the world’s premier modern and contemporary art event, attracting a vast number of visitors from across the globe each year. Additionally, UBS is a global financial services company based in Switzerland, offering services all over the world through its network of subsidiaries. With a full suite of services ranging from wealth and asset management to investment banking, UBS’s efforts extend beyond finances as demonstrated through the company’s partnership with Art Basel to launch the Art Market report.

Clare McAndrew is the founder of Arts Economics, a leading provider of art market research and data, and author of the Art Basel/UBS Art Market report. Her past research has focused on patterns of growth, value and the structure of the global art market. McAndrew has a Masters in Economics from Trinity College Dublin and is regularly featured in the media discussing her research.