Contemporary Art market between 2019 and 2020

Analyzing the tendencies in the contemporary art market might be tricky. Above all, there is, nowadays, the need to define what contemporary art refers to. The canonical interpretation collocates contemporary art with works that postdate 1960. However, the definition is widening embracing a longer period.

Defining Contemporary Art

Even if Contemporary Art is considered to start in 1960, today art experts tend to look at it over a more extended period. That is so why artists as Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945) or Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997) are collocated in the classification. Even if time considerations are not sufficient in recognizing the classifying boundaries, a certain periodization of art history helps in studying the Contemporary Art market.

Defining what Contemporary Art is important to understand the Contemporary Art market.

The way art express itself is changing fast. In particular – today more than ever – it is strictly related to new technologies and new communication channels. These factors play a significant role even if it is uneasy to understand in what amount they interfere with the dynamics of the art market. 

Above all, it almost seems that the concept of art is going more and more towards one of aesthetics. More precisely, it is like – by creating controversial works, such as Cattelan’s world-famed banana – artists are making the audience question about what art is and what makes an artwork so.

Contemporary Art market: results and turnovers

With auction results amounting to $129 million in 2019, Basquiat is at the top of the Contemporary Art market. Prices soared for the American artist in the last years. For example in 2012 one of his artworks sold for $7.6 million superating an estimate of $4 million to $6 million.

record in the Contemporary Art market for Ed Rusha's Hurting the World Radio
Ed Ruscha, “Hurting the Word Radio”, 1964

Analysis based on the sales of this last year highlight that Jeff Koons and Christopher Wool made the best results for ‘vintage’ contemporary art. On the other hand, Kerry James Marshall was in the world’s Top 100 artists by annual auction turnover along with Chinese artist Zhou Chunya.

Ed Ruscha’s Hurting the Word Radio (1964) made a new record for the artists in New York. The piece sold for $52.5 million. Meanwhile, Philip Guston’s Smoking II (1973) sold for $7.6 million. 

New market standard 

An article in the New York Times pointed out that currently, the art market is particularly stable. The pieces sold seem to be in line with the offer for maybe the first time. Also, even if the results might appear in decline, that is to refer to the lack of major works in the offer. Still, sales confirm that the Contemporary Art market is now buoyant.

Contemporary Art market tendencies and growth

Even Christie’s and Sotheby’s performances registered an increase compared to the sales of 2018. After the previews drop of about 32% in the prestige sales, they are seeing a notable increase. More specifically, they reached $595.8 million by the end of 2019 versus $400.8 million registered by the end of 2018.

All these trends mirror a phase in the Contemporary Art market of stability and solidity that is causing a growth in the number of new art collectors.

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