The news came as TEFAF (The European Fine Art Foundation) launched their latest detailed report, The Global Art Market in 2010: Crisis and Recovery, which shows a huge bounce back since the slump of 2009.
The report, which presages TEFAF's Maastricht fair this week and is widely acknowledged as the industry's premier study of the global scene, details a 52% rise in the global market over the year.
Although the UK market has revived along with the rest, its rate of recovery has been muted compared to China and the United States, where regulation and bureaucracy is seen as less stringent.
The report's headline statistics give the US a 34% share of a global market worth an estimated total of €43bn, up from a low of €28.3bn in 2009.
China, which overtook France to become the world's third largest market in 2009, has now taken second place with a 23% share, while the UK retains 22%.
While China's burgeoning wealth and influence is hardly news, the shift in market activity to Hong Kong and Beijing certainly is. As the report also reveals, Japan still has far more billionaires than China and while booms in Japan in the late 1980s and Russia and the Middle East more recently have seen buyers from those regions flex their muscles, the market itself has remained largely in New York and London.
Times are changing.
Dr Clare McAndrew, the report's author and one of the art market's leading analysts, has made a number of other key findings:
• Auction sales in China totalled almost €6bn in 2010.
• The European Union's share of the global market in 2010 was 37%, a decline of 16% from it high point in 2003.
• The UK remains the largest market within the EU with a 59% share, but it has lost 5% of its global share since 2006, albeit now in a growing market.
• France is Europe's second largest market with a 16% share of EU sales and a 6% global share.
• The number of High Net Worth (HNW) individuals in the Asia-Pacific region now equals those in Europe for the first time – and their overall wealth is greater.
• The global contemporary art market has recovered from it slump in 2009 when sales fell by 66%, but the resurgence has been significantly higher in the US and China than in Europe. The US recovery rate was 120%, China's 121%, Europe's 39% and the UK's 43%.
• Dealers generated 51% of sales globally compared to 49% by auction houses, with an average 30% of dealer business being conducted at fairs. The traditional on-street gallery is in decline.
The report makes alarming reading on the subject of the Artist's Resale Right (ARR) in the week after the UK Government's consultation on what should happen next with ARR concluded.
As ATG have reported on a number of occasions, the UK currently enjoys a derogation of the right, limiting it to living artists. Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and Malta also benefit from the derogation.
However, from the beginning of next year the EU plans to extend ARR to the estates of artists who have died within 70 years of the date of sale.
Dr McAndrew's report looks at the cost of avoiding the levy by sending works for sale to markets where ARR is not applied, such as China and the US. It concludes that the threshold that makes it worthwhile for a work to be sent outside the EU to New York is €40,000.
The report also notes that it will also make more sense for consignors from exempt countries to sell works outside the EU on this basis, and it concludes that unless a global agreement to apply ARR is reached, it "risks causing further declines in the competitive position of the EU and markets within it", threatening employment in the art market, related industries and cultural tourism.
By Ivan Macquisten