The global art market is a notoriously shady world where the checks and balances are left to as much interpretation as the illustrious pieces that move with its parameters.
Unaffected by the amassing populism that has characterized many global markets, the art markets growing inequality is an issue (if an issue at all) that remains unchallenged. The Art Market Report 2017 produced by Art Basel and UBS has pulled focus on some interesting facts, figures and stats that show where the supply and demand of tangible creative expression stands.
One such finding estimates that art sales under $1MUSD make up 99% of the global art sales. Yet, 50% of the total market value is exchanged in trades within the remaining 1%.
It would appear that the ‘real money’ for dealers, auctioneers and artists hangs in the carrot of the elite. This seemed to be the case, as the big dealers (those that play with sales of $1 – 10M+) experienced a 7% growth in 2016, whilst the smaller players (under $1M) continue to watch a year on year decline.
So, what does this mean for smaller galleries or those looking to level up? The challenge is real. As success push some galleries to hit for fences, the entry into the 1% of the market brings with it more risk. The sizeable financial barriers to the arena of $1M+ can force mid-level galleries into make or break star-reaching, as John McDonald ruminated in a recent piece for SMH’s Spectrum.
Figure 2 Darren Knight Gallery exhibiting Ronnie van Hout | Image: Art Basel Hong Kong
While the bulk of the art trade takes place in China, Europe and the USA – Australian galleries certainly have a place. One of the most recent examples of our countrymen’s global presence were the Aussie galleries that exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong and the nearby Art Central. The two events saw a six-seven split of Australian exhibitors. Art Basel’s halls were graced with presence of Sullivan + Strumpf, Darren Knight, Jensen, Roslyn Oxley9, This is No Fantasy + Diane Tanzer, and Tolarno.
It’s great to see our Gallerist’s taking on the global art market in international art fairs. Our artist’s work is certainly world class. It’s not been marketed this way consistently enough in the past.
Global promotion of Australian visual arts has needed more sophisticated players, more challenging artist’s work presented regularly to build an audience outside our small market. Presence at these events comes at a very high cost for the galleries and one wonders whether they can sustain expensive galleries at home and trade the world over, searching for the elusive $1mil+ buyers club. One thing is for sure, these endeavours will increase opportunity for Australian galleries & artists with international collectors, our market can only benefit.
The fact that the global art market has a value of over $45B may not mean much to the average art fan, but it’s an epic opportunity for those willing to push the envelope!
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