London Trade Art Magazine dives into the Art Basel and UBS mid-year review 2021.

20 September, 2021

In March 2021, Art Basel and UBS released their annual market report, shedding light on a tumultuous year for the art market amid a worldwide pandemic. Whilst the volume of art sales had reached its lowest level since 2009 with a decrease of 23%, online sales doubled in value from 2019 with a record high of $12.4 billion. Today, London Trade Art Magazine dives into the Art Basel and UBS mid-year review 2021, providing the latest art market insights for the first half of 2021. Here’s what you need to know. 

An unequal report on sales across continents 

Over 51% of art dealers observed an increase in sales in the first half of 2021 whilst 45% reported a decrease and 4% remained stable. Asian dealers had the most successful turnover with an increase of 18% on average, notably in Greater China. Like Asian dealers, North American dealers reported an increase in sales of 15% followed by other markets such as the South American and African markets, both achieving an increase of 11% on average. However, other regions of the world reported a decline in sales, European dealers being the most affected. The UK observed a decrease in sales of 3% while its overseas neighbours reported even lower performances such as France and Germany which respectively witnessed a decrease of 6 and 20%. According to art dealers, travel restrictions were the main factor of sales decrease, followed by new Brexit regulations.  

Online sales keep booming 

As in 2020, a large number of physical events were cancelled due to the pandemic which resulted in only 7% of the sales made by art dealers occurring during live events. On the other hand, online sales accounted for 37% of the sales made by art dealers, including online art events. An increasing number of new art buyers chose online channels to purchase art whilst 25% of online buyers were art collectors choosing to purchase art online for the first time. Art dealers and galleries remain the most popular sales channels for purchasing art amongst collectors, although the use of online third-party platforms and Instagram has increased between 2020 and the first half of 2021. 

Millennial collectors and digital sales 

High-net-worth collectors helped the art market go through a global economic contraction with their art spending increasing by 42% for the first half of 2021. Amongst high-net-worth collectors, female collectors spent twice more than male collectors. 

Millennial collectors spent more than any of their older counterparts with $378,000, three times more than Boomers or Gen X. Traditional art remained the most preferred form of art amongst high-net-worth collectors. However, 48% claimed to be interested in digital art in the last 12 months. Indeed, digital art and NFTs grew increasingly popular in 2021, diversifying art mediums across all categories of collectors. 

A step toward more diversity and inclusion in the art market 

In addition to the great role played by female high-net-worth collectors in the market, female artists represented 42% of all art collections, against 39% in 2020 and 37% in 2019. Moreover, galleries and art institutions engaged in promoting diversity and inclusion amongst their organisations. Following the Black Lives Matter movement, several art companies claimed to want to adopt new strategies to tackle racial inequalities within their work environments and the art market. 


Overall, the Art Basel and UBS mid-year review 2021 reported a promising first six months of 2021 for the art market despite the pandemic and Europe’s poor performance. Millennial collectors were ahead of all collectors, investing more than any of their older counterparts in all forms of art. NFTs were also the highlight of these six months, increasing in popularity within the art market. The review reported that most art dealers are optimistic about the coming months’ sales and expected them to increase, or at least, remain stable.

Léonore Simon

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