What does the 2020 Art Basel & UBS Report tell us about the art market?

Tiffany de Waynecourt Steele
3 min readJun 24, 2020


The Art Market 2020 Art Basel & UBS Report (“The Art Basel Report”) highlights the following notable indices for art as a non-bankable asset, of interest to Trustees, Private Collectors, Asset Managers, Family Office Representatives and Bankers:

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Q: What was the global sales figure for the art and antiques market in 2019?

A: USD 64.1 billion.

Q: Where were the major art hubs in 2019?

A: US, UK, China.

Q: Which is the largest art market globally?

A: The US, accounting for 44% of the global art market sales.

Q: Did the US, UK and China show declining sales for 2019?

A: Yes, the US market declined 5%, and the UK and Chinese markets by 9% and 10% respectively.

Q: How did the various sales channels (auction, dealers, galleries, etc) fare for these non-bankable assets in 2019?

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Dealers and Gallery Owners: 2% growth in this market, reaching USD 26.8 billion in 2019.

Auction sales of fine and decorative art/antiques [ excluding private auction sales] : decrease in this market to USD 24.2 billion, so down 17%.

Importantly, private auction sales increased.

The US, UK and China, — the three largest auction centres — maintained their dominant position, although France increased its share of the market to 7%.

The Art Basel Report concluded that:

“Works selling for more than $1 million accounted for 55% of the value of fine art auction sales in less than 1% of the lots sold.

The segment of works sold for over $10 million was the worst performing in 2019, declining 39% in value (and with 35% fewer lots sold).

Post-War and Contemporary art was the largest sector of the fine art auction market in 2019, with a share of 53% by value. Sales reached $6.1 billion, a decline of 10% year-on-year.

Works created in the last 20 years accounted for 23% of the value of Post-War and Contemporary sales in 2019.”

Q: What about online sales?

A: Online sales were deemed to be worth around USD 5.9 billion in 2019, which evidences a decline of 2% year on year. The share of the art market for online sales is 9%.

Q: Who was buying online during the review period?

A: For dealers selling online, 57% were sales to new buyers. For 2nd tier auction houses 34% were to new buyers.

Q: Who have online auction sales been critical for and who are the online users?

A: Smaller auction houses with sales under USD 1 million, with the HNWI millennials the most frequent online users, 92% of which, have bought online. 36% of those millennial collectors have paid over USD 50.000 and 9% more than USD 1 million for online art object purchases.

Q: What about HNWI collectors, what notable patterns emerge from the Art Basel Report?

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HNWI collectors attended around 39 art-related events in the preceding 12 months

Millennial collectors spent the most and over a two year period spent USD 3 million on art and collectibles.

HNWI collectors generally held around 76 works within their collections, with more than 30% of their collections held in storage, such as in freeports, vaults etc

Millennial collectors resold more works than other collectors, with the average period between purchase and sale for collectors who sold works being almost 4 years.



Tiffany de Waynecourt Steele

An attorney focused on the intersection of Private Client Law and Art Law Transactions and Disputes.