Home Magazine What does the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2021 say about the past year?

Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2021 provides us with an account of what the past year adds up to for the Art Market. Summing up the global currents and shifts analysed by UBS Investor Watch and Arts Economics, it breaks down the data to analyse the obstacles faced during the pandemic and how these have affected different sections of the Art Market. A global bill which, unfortunately, does add up to losses. But the key findings of the report are not all negative!

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Art Basel and international financial services provider UBS have released their Global Art Market Report 2021. Investigating the key art markets and the behaviour of 2500 collectors, they provide an overview of the trends and losses of 2020 by breaking down the data collected. But to understand the wide-ranging data analysed, UBS picks out five key findings.

After this troubling year, unsurprisingly the first two findings are about the global profile of the Art Market. First, UBS lists the disastrous drop of art and antiques sales - 22% since 2019. An incredibly hard year, and the artistic and cultural fields have taken the toll. But alongside this catastrophic decline comes a surge in online sales. Indeed, this brings us to the second key finding of the report: the increased importance of online purchases on platforms such as Kooness.com – the first Italian marketplace to be mentioned! Shooting up to a record high of $12.4 billion, the Global Online Art Market doubled in value compared to 2019!


Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2021. 


As well as a general decline and surge in online sales, the third key finding looks at how art collectors have been affected. Specifically, there has been a renewed interest in collecting, reported by 66% of the art collectors surveyed. Looking closely at the report, despite the lack of in-person events, an average of 9 artworks were bought in 2020 - not that low if we compare it to the average of 10 in 2019! A reassuring 57% of collectors even said that they intend to continue to collect in 2021! Additionally, a specific group is singled out by UBS’s key findings. Indeed, Millennials appear to invest particularly in artworks. This is in line with the results of insurance company Hiscox’s 2020 report about the Online Art market. Last year, the digital native Millennials spent the most and were significantly more active online. In fact, using online viewing rooms and social media channels, 30% of these younger art buyers spent over $1 million.

In the mainly male Art Market, the last encouraging key finding highlighted by UBS focuses on female collectors and artists. In fact, female collectors spent an incredible year-to-year median of $154,000 on artworks – significantly more than men according to the report. In addition, the representation of women artists also improved a lot last year, as their work reached a peak 39% of gallery displays. This is extremely promising if we compare it to the 33% in 2018. Of course, it is not enough to put an end to the under-representation of female artists, but it is great news!

In total, the increase of online sales, the surging interest in collecting, the presence of younger collectors, many female art collectors, and the increasing number of female artists’ works in galleries are amazingly positive trends in a market which was so hardly hit by the pandemic. Adding up the positives, as well as the negatives, Art Basel and UBS remind us of the global economic importance of the arts. Overall, the significance of this sector for the wider economy is something we must keep in mind when looking at the negatives, but also when looking back at the encouraging trends of the past year.


Key Findings, Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2021. 


Cover image: Vlada Karpovich, Woman typing on laptop, 21 March 2020, Courtesy of the artist ©Vlada Karpovich and Pexels.

Written by Zoë Rivas Zanello

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