Global art sales continue to soar; China still among top markets

A replicate of the painting 'Untitled' by artist Mark Rothko on display at Sotheby's in London this month. A new report says the global art market, particularly for contemporary and modern work, is strong.
(Will Oliver / EPA)

The global art market continued its white-hot ascent with sales for 2014 rising 7% over the previous year to $54.1 billion (51 billion euros) worldwide, according to an annual report published this week from the European Fine Art Foundation.

The report said the sum is the highest-recorded amount ever for the global art market.

In terms of volume, sales climbed by 6% to 39 million, but the number of transactions is short of the peak of the market in 2007, the report said.


“It continues to be a highly polarized market, with a relatively small number of artists, buyers and sellers accounting for a large share of value,” said Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist who wrote the report.

The three biggest art markets by value are the U.S., accounting for 39%, followed by China and the United Kingdom, each with 22% of the market. In 2011, China briefly overtook the U.S. in sales but has since lagged behind, according to the foundation.

In 2014, the largest art sector by value was postwar and contemporary art, representing 48% of all fine art sales. The second-biggest sector was modern, with 28% of the global fine art auction market.

Last year saw considerable tumult with the announced departures of the heads of Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the two largest art auction houses in the world. The rivals compete over big-ticket sales, but some experts have questioned whether those sales translate to substantial profits for the companies.

The new report said that online art sales continued to gain prominence, accounting for an estimated 6% of global art and antiques sales by value. It said the highest-ranking art-specific sites in 2014 were, and

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT