The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report: Continued Growth for Global Art Market, With Evidence of Active Buying by Millennial Collectors

2019-03-08 20:52 1311

ZURICH, March 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ --

  • Global art market up 6% to an estimated $67.4 billion, its second highest level in 10 years.
  • US retains position as the largest market; and the United Kingdom regains its place as the second largest market ahead of China.
  • UBS research collaboration reveals fresh insight on collecting behaviors of high net worth individuals in the UK, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.

UBS and Art Basel today published the third edition of the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, authored by renowned cultural economist Dr Clare McAndrew, and integrating strands of research from UBS. A comprehensive and macro-level analysis of the global art market in 2018, the report covers key trends in the market in the context of wider economic shifts.

The key findings include:

  • Global Sales: Sales reached an estimated $67.4 billion in 2018, an increase of 6% on 2017, with further consolidation at the top end. This brings the market to its second highest level in 10 years, with values advancing 9% over the decade from 2008 to 2018.
  • Leading Markets: The US retained its position as the largest market worldwide, accounting for 44% of sales by value. Sales in the US reached $29.9 billion, the highest recorded level to date. Despite political uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the United Kingdom had a relatively strong year of sales in 2018, with the value of sales to and from the UK art market currently dominated by non-EU trade. With values rising 8% to just under $14 billion, the UK regained its place as the second largest market at 21%. Sales in China, the third largest market at 19% reached $12.9 billion in 2018, a decline of 3% year-on-year.
  • Global Wealth and Art Buyers: The report includes the results of a survey of high net worth collectors in the UK, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan carried out in 2018 by Art Economics and UBS. In previous surveys of US collectors, conducted as part of ongoing research into investor sentiment, UBS Investor Watch, the majority of respondents were aged 50 years and over, however, in the newer markets in Asia, a very different age profile emerged in 2018: in Singapore, 46% of collectors were millennials, and 39% were millennials in Hong Kong. Millennial collectors made up just under half (45%) of the high-end spenders ($1 million plus), underlining the importance of the spending power of this demographic.
  • Online Sales: The online art market reached an estimated new high of $6 billion in 2018, up 11% year-on-year. At 9% of the value of global sales this is slightly lower than the global online retail sector, where e-commerce represented 12% of total retail sales in 2018. The UBS and Art Economics survey of HNW collectors in 5 markets, showed that the majority (72%) had not exceeded a price of $50,000 online. However, there is evidence that some collectors are increasingly willing to pay high prices online. 17% of the sample had bought a work of art or object for $100,000 or more and 4% had spent $1 million or higher on a work of art online.
  • Auction figures: Sales at public auction of fine and decorative art and antiques reached $29.1 billion in 2018, up 3% year-on-year, and up nearly 30% on 2016. Works of art selling at prices in excess of $1 million accounted for 61% of total sales value in the fine art auction market in just 1% of lots. Auction sales in the US had the strongest growth, increasing by 18% to $11.8 billion.
  • Dealer Figures: Sales in the dealer sector increased 7% year-on-year to an estimated $35.9 billion. The advance in sales continued to be driven by the high end of the market.
  • Art Fairs: Art fairs continue to be a central part of the global art market, with aggregate sales estimated to have reached $16.5 billion in 2018, up 6% year-on-year. The share of the total value of global dealer sales made at art fairs was 46% in 2018.
  • Gender issues: The report includes a comprehensive review of artist representation and gender issues. Notable research presented includes:
    • According to data from, the share of women in global exhibitions has grown from 25% in 2000, up to 33% in 2018.
    • For those galleries working in the primary market, 36% of the artists they represented in 2018 were female artists, which accounted for an average of 32% of their sales.

The report draws on two additional strands of UBS research:

  • UBS Evidence Lab's research on luxury expenditure in Greater China Visiting the Great Mall which revealed that millennials are more confident than older consumers, with women being the 'most resilient spenders'. The research found that millennial luxury consumers have the highest current average transaction values and were considerably more confident about the future compared to more cautious older consumers, having high disposable incomes, property and little experience of economic recession.
  • The UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2018: New Visionaries and the Chinese Century. Despite healthy growth in the Americas, still home to the largest concentration of billionaire wealth, and in Europe, Chinese billionaires expanded their wealth at nearly double the pace, growing by 39 percent to USD 1.12 trillion in 2017. The report found that China was creating two new billionaires a week, and Asia as a whole creating more than three billionaires per week. This shows a phenomenal trajectory over the last decade or so, as in 2006 there were only 16 Chinese billionaires.

Mark Haefele, Chief Investment Officer, UBS Global Wealth Management, said: "The art market is a fascinating reflection of economic developments and trends in wealth creation. Most notable is the growth of billionaire and millennial spending power, particularly in Asian markets. As ever, passion remains the market's lifeblood and drives the best collectors who value quality pieces that provide pleasure and cultural enrichment."

Download the full Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report here.   

Source: UBS