The Art Market in 2021 and Beyond: Highlights, Challenges, and Projections

The Art Market in 2021 and Beyond: Highlights, Challenges, and Projections
VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890) Cabanes de bois parmi les oliviers et cyprès Source - Christie's

In an era marked by global disruptions, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the art market emerged as a beacon of resilience and adaptability. Our analysis illuminates the market's remarkable transformation, its standout moments from 2021, and anticipates the trends that will shape its future. Understanding these shifts and trends is pivotal for collectors, investors, and enthusiasts alike, setting the stage for what lies ahead in the global art sphere. Our analysis draws insights from a joint Deloitte and Credit Suisse report.

2021 Highlights

  1. Transformation Amidst COVID-19: Despite the pandemic's setbacks, innovative business models emerged, making the market more adaptable and poised for growth.
  2. Record-Breaking Auctions: Major sales included the Cox collection at Christie's (USD 332 million) and Part One of the Macklowe collection at Sotheby's (USD 676 million) - the firm's highest ever.
  3. Sales Performance: Sotheby's and Christie's reported sales of USD 7.3 billion and USD 7.1 billion respectively.
  4. Market Value: The market was valued at USD 65.1 billion, marking a 29% growth from 2020.
  5. Global Hubs: New York remained dominant, with Hong Kong SAR rising as a significant hub. Paris surpassed USD 1 billion in auction sales and introduced Paris+, a new flagship art fair.
  6. Art Categories: Post-war and contemporary art reached USD 4.14 billion in sales. Impressionist and modern art touched USD 3.44 billion, with dedicated sales like Picasso in Las Vegas and Van Gogh in Hong Kong SAR.
  7. Online Presence: The art market expanded its digital footprint, with online sales growing by 7% to USD 13.3 billion.
  8. Rising Artists: The demand for African artists surged, with Modern and Contemporary African art auctions achieving USD 72.4 million in total sales.
  9. Museum Attendance: The top 100 museums experienced a 31% increase in attendance, though figures remain below pre-pandemic levels.


  1. Old Masters Market: The Old Masters sector faced obstacles like limited new collectors and supply. Asian investors were less engaged in this category.
  2. Geopolitical Uncertainties: Ongoing geopolitical tensions might impact the art market's stability.
  3. Financial Guarantees: Such guarantees provide security but introduce risks for auction houses.

Looking Ahead

  1. Market in 2022: Early indications reveal a recovering market with events running without disruptions.
  2. Emerging Trends: Rising sales, record prices, wealth transfers, new tax regulations, and increasing online transactions hint at the market's trajectory.
  3. Young Contemporary Artists: Their influence is expected to grow with the entry of new buyers.
  4. Shift to the East: Asian hubs, like Seoul, are emerging, and Asian clientele are rapidly growing.
  5. Tech Innovations: Blockchain, tokenization, NFTs, and decentralized finance (DeFi) will revolutionize the art world.
  6. Art as Investment: Recognized more as an alternative investment, art offers portfolio diversification, hedging against economic uncertainties, and wealth management solutions.


Reflecting on 2021, the art market not only demonstrated its resilience but also showcased its incredible capacity for innovation amidst adversity. Significant milestones were celebrated, and yet the shadow of challenges like inflation, global political shifts, and potential external shocks cannot be ignored. As we venture further into the decade, the art world stands at a fascinating crossroads. Embracing change, pioneering technological advancements, and understanding market dynamics will be crucial. For collectors and market stakeholders, the future promises a landscape filled with opportunities, surprises, and lessons, making the art market a dynamic arena to watch.


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