Reviewing Key Art Market Trends For 2021

As we approach the end of 2021, it’s a fitting moment to reflect on how key trends have played out across the year, and to reflect on what we can expect heading into 2022. The art market has largely recovered from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, with next year expected to bring further growth and a return to business as usual.


The first edition of Art Basel “at home” since the pandemic took place in September (rather than June as is traditional), with dealers appearing uncertain as to how the huge changes that have swept the art market since the pandemic started would affect them. Despite the strict COVID-19 regulations it appeared to be largely business as usual at the fair.Some highly anticipated works were on show, including Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983 “Hardware Store” which was on offer for $40 million in Van de Weghe Fine Art’s booth. Although this particular piece remained unsold, notable sales included:

– Jack Shainman Gallery – Kerry James Marshall’s “Untitled (Exquisite Corpse)” (2021) $5 million.
– White Cube – Mark Bradford, “Kryptonite” (2006) $4.95 million.
– Blum & Poe – Mark Grotjahn, “Untitled (Backcountry Capri 54.48)” (2021) $4 million.
– Lévy Gorvy – Ellsworth Kelly painting $3.5 million.
– Richard Gray Gallery – “Helen Frankenthaler, Arriving in Africa” (1970) $3 million.
– Hauser & Wirth – Philip Guston’s “The Poet” (1975) $6.5 million.


Chicago-based abstract artist McArthur Binion seemed to be trending at Art Basel, selling notable works including “Modern:Ancient:Brown” (2021) sold on the first day of previews for $300,000 and “healing:work” (2020) for $30,000. This success follows on from his sale of DNA: Black Painting: III (2015), sold for $300,000 at a Christie’s, New York in May.


NFTs are “one-of-a-kind” assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold like any other piece of property. While physical art events were postponed and cancelled during the pandemic NFTs have been soaring in popularity.
This year saw the debut of NFT digital artworks at Art Basel, Galerie Nagel Draxler in particular reporting strong sales of its NFT offerings. Olive Allen’s “Post-death or The Null Address” NFT sold for 8 ethereum, about £21,200, on opening day while Kevin Abosch’s NFT had sold for approximately £34,000.

Usually buyers have to operate through crypto platform OpenSea where NFTs are bought with cryptocurrency, although the gallery did allow some buyers to pay using more traditional dollars and Euros. Earlier this year an animated GIF of Nyan Cat – a 2011 meme of a flying pop-tart cat – sold for more than $500,000 (£365,000), while Christie’s sale of an NFT by digital artist Beeple for $69m (£50m) set a new record for digital art. Little surprise, then, that debut NFT sales at Art Basel were strong.


The UBS/Art Basel Mid Year Report reveals that Millennial collectors had the highest median expenditure overall, which at $378,000 is more than three times the level of Gen X and Boomers. This is helping to drive greater interest in sustainability in the art world; 77% of collectors now consider sustainable options when it comes to purchasing works of art or the management of their collections.

Similarly, the importance of the Millennial buyers reflects the continued shift to online sales. Online accounted for 33% of sales in H1 2021, with the largest share made
via dealers’ own internal online channels.

Analysis of the Art Basel/UBS HNW survey respondents also showed that through 2020-2021 the growth of female spending over male spending increased significantly. In the first half of 2021, spending by female collectors increased by just over one third to $410,000, more than double the level of their male counterparts who saw growth from 2020 of just 9% to $163,000.