Covid-19 Drives Boom In Contemporary Art & Emerging Artists

The ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a recent trend towards Contemporary Art and also boosted support for emerging artists at a time when the arts face immense challenges. 

Contemporary Art Outperforms Wider Market

According to Sotheby’s Mei Moses (SMM) All Art Index which tracks art market prices by analysing repeat auction sales, Contemporary Art has outperformed other sectors over the past year. While the SMM All Art Index increased 1.6% in the first seven months of 2020 from 2019, the SMM Contemporary Art Index was up 5.5%. In comparison, for Impressionist and Modern Art and for Old Masters and 19th Century art the indices moved up just 0.6% for the former and down 0.7% for the latter.

This shift towards the Contemporary Art sector is reflected by the actions of big collectors like Deutsche Bank which recently announced plans to sell 200 historical works of art from its collection. The sale will enable the bank to refocus on contemporary and emerging art. 

Looking back over a longer time scale, it’s obvious that the Contemporary Art market has grown enormously over the past 20 years. Once a relatively small percentage of the overall art market, the Contemporary segment now accounts for 15% of the global market. Worth just under $2 billion in auction turnover versus less than $92 million in 2000, it has now overtaken both the Old Masters and 19th century Art categories.

In recent years the Contemporary Art has undergone immense structural changes, with more artists and more artworks while growing and expanding geographically. According to Artprice, Contemporary Art “is now the most dynamic and profitable segment of the entire Art Market.” 

Covid-19 Drives Growing Support for Emerging Artists

Collectors have also indulged their altruistic streak during these challenging times. Small and large investors alike are increasingly interested in supporting the wider art world rather than focusing exclusively on well-known and blue chip artists. Collectors feel that their next purchase might not only be a financial investment, but also a cultural one.

Additionally, Millennial buying preferences have revolutionized just about every market. In the 2020 edition of The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, it is reported that High Net Worth (HNW) Millennials are now the fastest-growing collector demographic, buying more art and spending more on it than any other. Millennial buyers view art as a combination of both social and investment values and actively seek out emerging and diverse artists.

The contemporary sector has the largest share of younger buyers, with 21% of con- temporary collectors being under 40. Research from Sotheby’s backs up this data, recording a 22.5% increase in bidders in their 20s and 30s between 2019 and 2020. Work by emerging artists tends to be more accessible and affordable than more established artists. This gives it enhanced appeal to younger buyers and those looking for interesting investment opportunities to hedge against the uncertainties currently plaguing traditional investment classes.

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