The ultra-contemporary art auction market has more than doubled since 2019. What is driving the boom?
At auctions these days, the hottest contests aren’t for the work of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, or other Cedar Bar regulars. Instead, they’re for cool paintings by artists who probably grew up watching Nickelodeon, collected Beanie Babies, and had a Tamagotchi.
Ultra-contemporary artâOur term for works by artists born after 1974 â is fastest growing segment of the art market from afar. And its momentum only picked up during the pandemic. In the first eight months of 2021, $ 462.5 million in art of this category was auctioned. It is up 75 percent from the full year of 2020 and 145% from 2019.
Earlier this month, Sotheby’s announced that it would launch a new branded evening sale in New York called “The Now”, which is specifically dedicated to art produced in recent decades. This is a sign of the strength of this market and its speed.
The chart below tells the story more concisely and clearly than I ever could.
That’s a lot to take! So what is driving this yen for the new? Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.
Start at the beginning, please. What is ultra-contemporary art?
We coined the term here at Artnet News in 2019. (It didn’t set the world on fire, but it has spread a bitâBloomberg used once!) We realized that as the contemporary art market evolved, it needed a little more precision. What important trends are we missing if we put Andy Warhol, who died in 1987, and Avery Singer, born in 1987, in the same category? By creating a new nickname for the artists born from 1975 to the present day, we have sought to provide valuable visibility to the youngest talents by strengthening secondary markets. (We have defined contemporaries as artists born from 1945 to 1974.)
What has happened in this market lately?
Like anyone who has witnessed some of the recent bidding wars for works by artists such as Matthieu wong, Singer Avery, and Emily mae smith knows, this market is pretty much on fire. It was the kind less affected by confinement, only 1.3% drop in the first half of 2020. He also bounced back most spectacularly.
From January to June of this year, category sales increased to $ 302.6 million–almost 300 percent above their most recent peak in 2019. Remarkably, the size of the ultra-contemporary art market now rivals that of Old Masters, which totaled $ 338.2 million in sales in the first half of the year. (For perspective: the first genre covers art made in less than 50 years; the latter more than six centuries.)
Phew, that’s a lot of money. But isn’t it possible that this genre is developing so quickly because so many new works are coming to the market every year? That’s what it means to be contemporary, isn’t it?
It is true that the supply is much more abundant – and growing – in this segment of the market than for, say, the old masters. But it is not only the volume of works at auction that is increasing; so are the prices. In 2013, the average price for an ultra-contemporary piece of art at auction was $ 25,500. Fast forward to 2021 and that number doubled, to $ 51,415.
So ok! What is driving this explosion?
It can be attributed to a number of factors. First, Millennial (and even Gen Z) collectors are a growing force in the market, and they are interested in collecting works by artists of their own generation, just as their parents were.
This new generation of collectors is also more motivated by profit than their predecessors. A recent report from Deloitte found that 64% of collectors under 35 cited return on investment as the most important factor in their art acquisitions, compared to 30% of collectors aged 35 and over.
While many of these buyers have benefited from the dynamism of the stock markets and crypto over the past 18 months, they are unlikely to be able to spend $ 40 million on a Rothko. Some of them, however, would rather spend $ 200,000 on a painting for the chance to return it two years later for double the price than pay $ 20,000 for something they believe has no resale value. .
I’ve heard that a lot of interest in ultra-contemporary artists comes from Asia. Is it true?
Our previous report shows that Asian collectors have been extremely active in this segment. Record-breaking works by artists such as Avery Singer, Joel Mesler, Jonathan Chapline, Genieve Figgis, Amoako Boafo and Javier Calleja sold at the Hong Kong Spring Auctions have all been purchased by Asian collectors aged 45 or under. .
The latest research from the Artnet price database confirms this. In 2020, Asia accounted for nearly half (47%) of ultra-contemporary art sales up for auction, while tthe United States came in at just under 30%, and Europe followed with a 23 percent share.
So far this year, the United States has taken the lead in ultra-contemporary art sales, but much of this change is likely due to Beeple’s $ 69 million auction. Everyday NFT, which was set up by Christie’s New York. Moreover, in the age of online shopping, simply because a work is sold through a particular office does not mean that it is purchased by a local buyer. Namely: Beeple’s winning bidder, production studio NFT and crypto fund Metapurse, is not based in the United States, but in Singapore.
Who are the big stars in this market?
In the first eight months of the year, the best performances in terms of total auction sales are as follows:
- Beeple (born in 1982): $ 69.6 million
- Matthieu Wong (1984-2019): $ 30 million
- Adrian Ghenie (born 1977): $ 24.3 million
- Ayako Rokkaku (born 1982): $ 12 million
- Dana Schutz (born 1976): $ 12 million
- Avery Singer (born 1987): $ 10.9 million
- Jonas Wood (born 1977): $ 9.4 million
- Salman Toor (born 1983): $ 8.9 million
These artists are at different stages of their careers: Schutz and Wood have resumes filled with international museum exhibitions, for example, while Rokkaku has had relatively little exposure outside of Asia. Few people in the art world have understood the name “Beeple” before March.
But all of the names in the list above – well, all except Beeple – have a few things in common. They are figurative painters who produce works that are difficult to access by collectors on the primary market, which drives up their prices at auction. In addition, they have individually generated more auction money so far this year than Francis bacon, Robert motherwell, Hokusai, Where Georgia o’keeffe.
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