UBS and Art Basel Collectors’ Survey Shows Booming Art Market

“A Survey of Global Collecting in 2022,” this year’s iteration of a report jointly published since 2014 by investment bank UBS and art-fair giant Art Basel, reveals wealthy art buyers to be eagerly reaching for their wallets as the pandemic and its attendant restrictions fade. The survey’s author, Clare McAndrew, and staff queried roughly 2,700 high-net-worth collectors in the US, Europe, and Asia, and learned that the appetite for physical art is especially robust, as is the desire to attend art fairs and auctions in person. Of note, the market for NFTs, which saw tremendous growth in 2021, has stabilized but not cooled, despite Ethereum’s sustained slide this year.

Global imports of art soared by 41 percent between 2020 and 2021, with exports rising 38 percent in the same period, while median expenditures in the first half of this year, at $180,000, roughly equaled those before the Covid-19 crisis and reflected a steady climb from 2020 ($100,000) and 2021 ($164,000). As well, while just 12 percent of collectors in 2021 attestedt o regularly purchasing works valued at more than $1 million, this year 23 percent of collectors reported that they did so.

A whopping 74 percent of collectors said that they returned to art fairs this year, a percentage that reflects the heated reporting on such events in recent months, as art buyers starved for camaraderie and the chance to hunt their prey in person descend on fairs across the globe; comparatively, 54 percent shopped the booths IRL in 2021. The trend of buying online, begun during the grimmest months of the crisis, continues to fuel art sales as well, with the arena seeing $12.4 billion in sales last year; 37 percent of buyers said they preferred the format, as compared to 29 percent in 2020. “The art trade itself has been instrumental here in improving the experience collectors have online,” noted McAndrew, “and the pandemic gave more people the chance to try it out.”

Finally, going deeper into the digital realm, sales of digital art rose 5 percent between 2020 and 20201, with NFTs making up 9 percent of the collections of those surveyed. If that sounds low, consider that they were more popular than film film, video art, and photography. Additionally, the average amount collectors spend on NFTs has increased to a high of $46,000, with 12 percent acknowledging having paid more than $1 million for the planet-crushing products.


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