A Recap of ‘The Art Basel & UBS Survey of Global Collecting 2023’

Key Findings & Questions

7 November, 2023

Recently, Art Basel & UBS released the results of their ‘Survey of Global Collecting 2023’, which assesses art collector purchases and motivations throughout the year, and predicts what will shape the market in 2024. In this article, we have broken down key findings from this report and highlighted important questions that arise to help you make your own assumptions on how the art market will evolve in 2024 and future years to come. 

Healthy imports and increased spending

  • Although global imports had decreased across all industries in the first quarter of 2023, the value of imports to key art and antique hubs continued to grow, especially in Hong Kong (50%), the UK (38%) and the US (15%).

How does the UK’s continued position as a key hub relate to Brexit? Is this indicative of the robustness of its art market and collector base?

  • The average level of expenditure by HNW collectors across 11 markets in the first half of 2023 was reported at $65,000, which is the same as the median expenditure for 2022. If we continue in this direction, we could see a significant increase in expenditure for the year.
  • Collectors from Mainland China have bounced back, following a 6% decline in their median expenditure in 2022. In fact, Mainland China has reported the highest median expenditure in the first half of 2023 ($241,000 versus $202,000 in 2022).

Given current political turmoil and uncertainties, what role can we assume China will play in the years to come? Will their renewed leading position be short lived or consistent year on year?

Paintings still dominate, while digital art continues to take a hit.

  • In 2023, the majority of spending was on paintings (58%), followed by works on paper (13%). Again, Mainland Chinese collectors were the highest average spenders on both paintings (up 20% on 2022) and other mediums. 
  • Sales of NFTs and digital art continued their downward trend from 2022. Purchases of digital art by HNW collectors represented just 3% of their total expenditure, and such artworks comprised only 8% of their collections. By mid-2023, sales of art-related NFTs fell to their lowest level since January 2021. 
  • From a generational perspective, Gen X outperformed Millennials in most of the largest-value mediums in 2023, with the highest overall spending for paintings ($145,000 versus $108,000) and works on paper. That said, Millennials did spend more on sculptures, installations, photography and video art, and Gen Z displayed the highest average expenditure on prints and digital art. 

Is this simply down to the budgets held by different generations as they enter the market, or could this possibly be indicative of a future change in preferred genre by collectors? We have previously explored this in another one of our articles: ‘Next Gen’: Who Are They and How Will They Change Art Collecting for Good?'.

Women artists still represent a reduced share of collections.

  • On average, HNW collectors added fewer works by women to their collections in 2022 and 2023 (39% compared to 61% by men), reverting to the 2020 level. Despite this, there is a silver lining: collectors spending over $10 million per annum tend to have a higher share of works by women (54%) and increased their spending from 46% to 55% in 2023. 

With more and more institutions pressured to close the gender gap in artist representations, how can we expect this to evolve?

HNW collectors proceed with caution. 

  • Levels of expenditure at higher price points (over $1 million) were below those of 2021 and previous years. 
  • Following a peak of 24% in 2022, art comprises 19% of HNW collector wealth portfolios on average. However, this proportion of art allocation fortunately rises with collector wealth (from 15% for those with under $5 million to almost 30% with over $50 million).

Could this be representative of a more cautious era for the market, one where collectors are less inclined to spend on discretionary purchases and more on liquid financial assets, mostly sparked by the current climate of high inflation, turmoil in both the political and financial spheres, and the ongoing impact of the pandemic?

Self-focused drivers continue to push the market forward.

  • In terms of what motivates collectors, self-identity and personal pleasure ranked the highest (37%), followed by financial motivations (28%) and simply being able to participate in the art market, or relationships and networking (14%).
  • While financial motivations ranked second, only 10% of collectors identified as ‘investors’. Despite this, resales continue to be strong, with 48% of collectors having resold works from their collections. 39% of collectors sold their works within an average period of three years (up from 30% in 2021), while 83% resold them within five years.

When predicting future art sale trends, we may also want to consider generational differences when it comes to motivational factors, as Gen Z has already been seen to value different aspects of an artwork and its history than Boomers, and even Gen X. They may also be more inclined to play around with more innovative and investment-focused methods of art collecting, such as fractional ownership

A feeling of optimism for 2024

  • Overall, despite ongoing challenges faced since the pandemic and into 2023, the majority of HNW collectors (77%) were optimistic about the art market’s performance over the next six months (compared to 74% for the stock market). 
  • A consistent percentage of HNW collectors were planning to buy art over the next year (54%) from 2022, with the most active buyers predicted to be those from Mainland China (68%), followed by Japan, Brazil and Italy. 
  • Paintings are expected to continue to outrank other mediums (84%), followed by sculptures and works on paper.  
  • In terms of resales, 22% of collectors plan to sell works from their collections over the next 12 months, down from 39% in 2022. The majority are expected to hold off on selling with the belief that the prices of their artists will improve later on. 

One could argue that the main factors to watch when making predictions for 2024 are the ongoing threat of recession and the evolution of the current conflict unfolding in the Middle East. 

Sources:

Clare McAndrew, Art Basel & UBS, ‘The Survey of Global Collecting 2023’

Aurelia Clavien

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