The Art Dealer Landscape in 2022: Sales, Costs, and Buyer Trends

The Art Dealer Landscape in 2022: Sales, Costs, and Buyer Trends
Photo by Praewthida K on Unsplash

Introduction

The global art market is a complex and dynamic ecosystem, with dealers playing a crucial role in connecting artists with collectors. This article, based on the Art Basel and UBS Art Market Report 2023, provides a detailed analysis of the key findings related to dealer sales, costs, and buyer trends in 2022.

Dealer Sales: Recovery and New Buyers

The dealer sector in 2022 represented a year of continued recovery in the global dealer sector. With most regions returning to a regular schedule of exhibitions and events after the pandemic-induced restrictions of the previous two years, dealers navigated a challenging market, adapting to changing economic conditions and finding new buyers.

Interestingly, new buyers accounted for 35% of their sales on average. However, this share varied depending on the dealer's turnover. Smaller dealers, those with a turnover of less than $250,000, had the highest share of new buyers at 43%. In contrast, all dealers turning over more than $500,000 saw the share of sales to new buyers decline year-on-year.

Dealer Costs and Margins: Payroll and Rent Dominate

In 2022, payroll and rent remained two of the largest components of business expenses for dealers, accounting for around half of total operating costs. Dealers reported that costs escalated substantially in many regions, with payroll shifting up slightly from 24% to 26% and a marginal decline in the share of rent from 25% to 24%.

Dealers also spent a significant amount on a range of external services to support their businesses. They reported that they spent an average of between 20% to 30% of their gross sales on a range of goods and services (excluding inventory) contracted from individuals and companies outside their business in 2022. The largest component of this external expenditure was on art fairs, which made up 30% of the total.

Buyers: A Balance Between New and Established

Dealers’ focus throughout the year was relatively evenly divided between maintaining relationships and sales with their existing base of clients and finding new local and international buyers. Of their sales in 2022, 35% went to new buyers that were buying from them for the first time in 2022, 30% were buyers they had dealt with for one to five years, and 35% were buyers they had dealt with for more than five years.

The share of new versus established buyers differed by turnover level. Smaller dealers had the highest share of sales to new buyers, accounting for 43% of sales for those with turnover of less than $250,000. For all dealers turning over more than $500,000, the share of sales to new buyers declined.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the dealer sector in 2022 was marked by continued recovery, increased costs, and a focus on both maintaining relationships with existing clients and finding new buyers. The balance between these two buyer categories varied depending on the turnover level of the dealers. As we move further into 2023, the dealer sector will continue to evolve, shaped by these factors and the changing tastes and preferences of collectors and investors.

Sources

Art Basel & UBS (2023), THE ART MARKET 2023 A report by Art Basel & UBS. https://theartmarket.artbasel.com/download/The-Art-Basel-and-UBS-Art-Market-Report-2023.pdf

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