Crack open the champagne and party. Claire McAndrew’s annual TEFAF Art Market Report says that 2014 was the best ever year for art sales with Eu51 billion ($70 billion, at 2014 rates) in sales, up 7% on 2013, and above the previous record of Eu48 billion ($65 billion) in 2007.
McAndrew says that dealers and galleries account for 52% of the market. The top markets were the US (39%), China (22%) and the UK (22%). The 180 major art fairs (is that all) accounted for 40% of all dealer sales in 2014 or €9.8 billion.
Almost half of the fine art auction market came from the 1,530 lots sold for more that Eu1 million auction, including 96 that sold for Eu10 million.
McAndrew’s report says that online auction sales accounted for €3.3 billion—6 percent of total sales, although the average online sale is for less than $50,000.
This is all great news and most are optimistic about 2015. But whilst it may seem churlish to raise problems during a record year, it would be fascinating to see the value of sales that did not happen due to problems with authenticity, restitution, crime and other issues. Or the sales which took place without proper due diligence.
The problem is that in bull markets these issues tend to be forgotten. When demand for art increases the balance of power shifts from buyers to sellers. And buyers rush to make decisions. Key players in art market should have resolved some of these issues when sales were falling – particularly restitution and authenticity issues. But instead the art market wasted the downturn.