Clare McAndrew

 Economist Dr Clare McAndrew, founder of Arts Economics.

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The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2024 showed that global online sales of art and antiques increased 7% year-on-year in 2023, despite the value of the market overall decreasing by 4%. 

Compiled by founder of Arts Economics Dr Clare McAndrew using data from auction houses, dealers, collectors, fairs and experts, the report said that online sales reached an estimated $11.8bn. The figure is down from the 2021 peak of $13.3bn but still double that of 2019 or any year previously.

The growth was most pronounced in the dealers’ sector where sales were up by 7% in share year-on-year and on a par with 2021.

In an online panel discussion following the release of the report earlier today, McAndrew named the continued strength of online sales one of the 'bright spots' in a difficult year for the market. 

The report revealed that the UK had slipped back to third place in the ranking of global leading markets with a 17% share behind the US (42%) and China (19%). Last year it had risen to second place. 

One of the major challenges reported for art market businesses in 2023 was rising costs and inflation as well as caution from buyers caused by geopolitical uncertainty. The report found that 40% of firms were less profitable than they were in 2022, a rise of 8% year-on-year, and 29% more profitable, down by 10% versus 2022. 

Antiques trade bounce

Spelling some good news for the antiques trade specifically was a small but notable finding was that dealers specialising in the category of ‘antiques & decorative art’, experienced a growth in sales of 6% between 2022 and 2023.

Better still was the year-on-year improvement for generalist dealers who offer a mix of fine art and decorative art, antiques, or antiquities, which had an increase of 9%. Both antiques and 'mixed' dealers had lower turnovers in general than those specialising in fine art. 

McAndrew said: “The year 2023 saw a much-anticipated easing in sales in the art market after two years of strong growth after the pandemic. While high-end sales were thinner, activity held up at lower levels and the market continued its evolution along a dual path of offline and online sales.

“As in many other industries, rising costs were the key challenge for businesses in the art market in 2023, and profitability became a more closely monitored metric than sales. The focus for many in 2024 has shifted from rapid expansion at all costs to finding ways to achieve sustainable and profitable growth and stability as they continue to navigate an uncertain economic and political future.”