The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2023 also showed dealers remain optimistic about future sales. Most dealers surveyed were positive that 2023 would bring stable or improving sales with the smallest dealers (turnover of below $250,000) among the most optimistic with just over half (52%) expecting an increase.
The survey was produced by founder of Arts Economics Dr Clare McAndrew using 2022 data from auction houses, dealers, collectors, fairs and experts.
The report revealed that, although worldwide art and antiques sales grew to $67.8bn (£54.8bn) in 2022, which was higher than the 2019 pre-pandemic level, overal l growth slowed.
In 2021 sales grew 31%, compared with the 3% in 2022.
Covid hit China
The UK recovered its second-place spot by overtaking China with 18% of global sales, while China’s share decreased three percentage points to 17% due largely to the impact of its zero-Covid policies. The US remained top with sales by value increasing its share by two points year-on-year to 45%. France maintained its fourth position with no adjustment to its global share of 7%.
The report also revealed that for both the US and China the majority of dealer sales are made to local buyers whereas in contrast the UK’s dealers make most of their sales with overseas buyers. UK dealers were a “notable exception”, with “considerably more international focus” the report said. Generally around 60% of sales were to buyers outside the UK, but for dealers with turnover of more than $10m nearly 80% of their sales were to non-UK buyers.
If regulation became less burdensome and the economic situation improved, more cross-border trade would follow.
Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation (BAMF), said: “The US is the hugely dominant market, with the biggest share since 2000. The competition for growth for the UK is with the US and China.
The report highlights how important cross-border trade is for the art market. This is what we have been talking to government about.
“We could do a lot better if the government made cross-border trade easier and controlled excessive regulation.
“The UK is still below where we were in 2010-2019 when we had between 20-22% of the market. But I am an optimist. We need the right economic environment, then the UK art market could grow further. The government has it within its gift to do something. We have been talking to them about import VAT and there are other measures that would help.”
Online sales were down compared to the height of the pandemic but were still well-ahead of 2019.
Online-only sales fell to $11bn (£8.9bn), down 17% from the $13.3bn peak in 2021 (but 85% higher than 2019).
Dr Clare McAndrew said: “2022 was the first proper year of testing how things would work post-Covid. Online-only sales seem to be at a permanently higher level now.
“I don’t think they will fall too significantly. Auction houses are fully set up for online sales and dealers have made investments in their online platforms.
“Collectors have tested buying online and many have very positive experiences so will continue. Online sales have doubled since 2019 and I don’t think they will go back to that now.”