The ‘defection’ of economist Dr Clare McAndrew from the TEFAF organisation to Art Basel provided an insight into the world of art market number crunching.
In 2017 her annual report (released at the Art Basel Hong Kong fair in March) was compared with a similar document unfurled the previous week at the opening of the Maastricht fair by local university professor Rachel Pownall.
Many of the trends were reassuringly similar. However, the numbers contrasted dramatically. The difference of $11.6bn in the estimated size of the global market ($45bn in 2016 according to the TEFAF report and $56.6bn at Art Basel) was more than the Sotheby’s and Christie’s annual sales combined.
Pownall found a market dominated by a positive performance from the dealing community (representing 62.5% of the market). Meanwhile McAndrew reported that “no one in the trade thought  was a good year. It was a challenging year with uneven performances across regions and sectors”.
This little rivalry took on a new dimension in December with the announcement that the owners of Art Basel had acquired Masterpiece and would seek to export this fair brand beyond the confines of London.