Global Art Market Report Highlights Future Growth in Collecting

Furnishing sustainably with English Country House art and antiques © Toovey’s 2020

The findings of the 2021 Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report highlights the trends we are witnessing here in Sussex with future growth in collecting.
Covid-19 has affected our lives in so many different ways, there have been joys and sorrows. And yet those I meet are hopeful about the future.

In the auction, art and antique world I have witnessed a collecting boom alongside the tender shoots of a renaissance of interest in more traditional art and antiques. English Country House Taste, which the young are now calling The New Minimalism, gives expression to their desire to have a minimal impact on the world by celebrating older furniture and objects which make no demands on the world’s precious resources. Women, too are having a stronger influence on collectors’ markets. The huge investment in our online offer over many years has brought dividends to our clients as collectors have embraced our digital showroom.

However, collectors and sellers have been delighted to return to the salerooms and sales once again by appointment.

The report notes that the US retained its position as market leader in 2020 with a share of 42% of global sale values. For the third year running the UK maintained its second place position with a 20% share but this year on level pegging with China.

The report illustrates how the digital transformation has accelerated as auctioneers, galleries and fairs moved their sales online in response to the challenges of Covid-19. Perhaps unsurprisingly online sales doubled in value from 2019 to reach a record high of $12.4 billion. The report highlights that for the first time the share of e-commerce in the art market exceeded that of general retail. The figure represented a record 25% share of the market’s total value.

The collectors surveyed remained actively engaged with the art market. Despite having fewer opportunities to buy in person they purchased almost as many items in 2020 as they had in 2019.

Online and in person, report highlights future growth in collecting © Toovey’s 2021

Among the most exciting statistics in the report 66% of those surveyed said the pandemic had increased their interest in collecting, and one third (32%) said significantly. This increase shows the resilience and appeal of our market and matches our experience at Toovey’s here in Sussex. The majority of collectors noted their intention to be active in 2021, with 57% planning to purchase more work.

Foot traffic data from UBS Evidence Lab offered early indications of renewed visits to commercial galleries in 2021 and that has been our experience too.
An exciting development is the continued growth in women’s buying power and influence in the market. In 2020 women spent more than men with their average expenditure rising 13% year-on-year.

Millennials are also becoming influential in the market and are more likely to be active online, the report noting greater use of online viewing and social media.
The trend towards future growth in collecting and furnishing in a sustainable way in the looks set to continue with Britain maintaining its success in the global art market.

Britain Retains Global Art Market Position

A detail of a Japanese Satsuma dish painted by Sozan for Kinkozan

In 2018 the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Survey confirmed that the United Kingdom had regained its position from China as the second largest global art and antiques market behind the United States. Earlier this year it was announced that Britain had retained this position in 2019.
Given the scale of China’s market this is a remarkable achievement for the United Kingdom.

The British art and antique market is a significant sector in the UK economy. In 2019 the total annual value of art and antique exports broke through £9 billion for the first time whilst imports rose to £2.142 billion.

Britain is the second largest art and antique market in the world with a 20% global market share. It uniquely attracts high value items from around the world for sale recognising the profession’s expertise and ability to add value. These objects are sold, predominately at auction, to a global audience. Britain has the most varied and largest art and antiques market in Europe.

Back in 2013 Toovey’s, together with a small group of the UK’s leading regional auctioneers, was invited to China. The introduction of British auction practice and ethics was seen as an important part of this exchange in Beijing. A working relationship was also formed with Epai Live, China’s largest mainland online auction platform for the marketing of art and antiques, which continues to provide our clients with rare, direct access to this market.

Demand from China has had a profound effect on collectors’ markets.
The Chinese and Asian market for ceramics and works of art proved its resilience and strength at Toovey’s last week.

Our first specialist auction since the Covid-19 lockdown saw strong demand from China, Japan, the UK and Europe. Viewing and bidding at the salerooms by appointment proved popular whilst keeping people safe and successfully combined with interest and competition online, from the bank of telephones and commission bidders.

A fine Chinese polished bronze censer, mark of Xuande but Qing dynasty

One of my favourite lots in the sale was a fine Chinese polished bronze censer. Although of later date it bore the mark of the 15th century Ming Dynasty Emperor Xuande Its rectangular body was beautifully cast in low relief with an archaisitic dragon and keyfret band flanked by a pair of moulded lion mask handles. Raised on four scroll moulded bracket feet it measured just 5 ½ inches and realised £5200.

The Yonghe Lamasery, Beijing

It reminded me of my visit to the Buddhist Yonghe Lamasery in Beijing. There in the courtyards scores of young people lit their incense sticks placing them in giant bronze censers, their prayers rising with the clouds of incense to heaven. Inside towering gold figures provided windows into prayer.

There was a notable increase in competition for Japanese items. The finely painted Satsuma dish by Sozan for the Kinkozan workshop was decorated with two bijin in conversation beneath a pine tree and sold for £3800.
Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown enquiries and interest in art and antiques remained strong. It is exciting and hopeful to see that demand reflected in the confident return of sales with post lockdown prices at auction showing real strength as markets re-immerge.