Art Market Outlook 2016

The global contemporary art market contracted in 2015, but smaller regional art markets outperform. Gloom hangs over China's economy and low oil prices could weigh down the art market sentiment in 2016.

After record sales in 2014, our last year’s Outlook Report predicted that global art market sales were going to slow down. In 2015, the two biggest contemporary art markets, US & Europe and China experienced a market contraction, which resulted in 7.8% lower sales of Modern and Contemporary art across all the markets covered in this report. However, whilst Chinese contemporary art has seen auction sales down by 41%, other Asian markets such as India and Southeast Asia have seen positive sales growth of 14% and 28% respectively.

Global vs Local art markets– diverging trends emerging

So where is the global art market heading in 2016? Is the art market slowdown experienced in the US & European and the Chinese contemporary art markets a precursor for a broader value adjustment across all art markets? Or could we see a divergence in performance across different regional art markets? Based on results from a series of different art market surveys conducted by Art Tactic in December 2015 and January 2016, we have outlined some broad art market trends and expert predictions for this year. Although the general sentiment looks less optimistic compared to last year, the outlook for 6 out of 8 regional art markets analysed in this report remains neutral-to-positive for the coming 12 months. It's only the Chinese and Russian art markets that has a negative outlook for 2016.

Economic uncertainty

Despite relatively neutral-to-positive pre-Christmas economic forecasts for 2016, the year has kicked off on a pessimistic note. Heightened concerns about the slowdown in the Chinese economy and a rapidly falling oil price, have dragged the parts of the global equity market into bearish territory for the first time since 2009. The ongoing stock market volatility and uncertainty around China's ability to manage a potential 'hard landing' is likely to continue to spook the markets in coming months, and is likely to trickle down and dampen the confidence in the global contemporary art market this year. The majority, 62% of the experts surveyed in January 2016, said that economic uncertainty is the largest risk to the outlook for the global contemporary art market in 2016.

Post-War and Contemporary art auction sales down in 2015, but offset by a 14% increase in Modern & Impressionist sales

Overall auction sales of Post-War & Contemporary, Modern & Impressionist, Old Masters and Chinese art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, decreased by 5.9% in 2015. Every sector, except for Modern & Impressionist art, registered a decline in sales during 2015. Post-War & Contemporary art saw auction sales decline by 6% in 2015, Old Master sales were down 57% after a record year in 2014, and Chinese works of art dropped 11% in 2015. On a positive note, the Modern & Impressionist art market saw a positive 14% growth in auction sales, boosted by a number of record prices for Picasso, Giacometti and Modigliani.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s rivalry about to enter a new phase

Christie’s ended 2015 with a 58.1% market share in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening sales (down from 65.4% in 2014). However, with a string of recent hires and the acquisition of Art Agency, Partner in January 2016, Sotheby’s is preparing to reclaim market share from its rival. Although the majority, 62% of the experts surveyed, still believe Christie’s will have the upper hand in 2016, and increasing number, 38% (up from 21% in January 2015) of respondents believe Sotheby’s will take the throne by the end of the year.

How do you feel about the OUTLOOK for the global contemporary art market in 2016?

Where do you see the following contemporary art price segments heading in 2016?

Who do you predict to be the best performing global auction house in 2016 (in terms of contemporary auction sales)?

Who do you predict to be the best performing global auction house in 2016 (in terms of contemporary auction sales)?

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Helen Szaday von Gizycki

Regions & Countries
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Regions & Countries
Art & Culture