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This year’s TEFAF Report, published to coincide with the opening of the TEFAF Maastricht fair, shows the overall market has contracted by 7%, falling from $68.2bn to $63.8bn, after two years of growth.

Against a background of increasing economic uncertainty, China has now lost its position as the world’s second largest art economy after the US with the UK taking its place as number two in global rankings.

From 2012 to 2014, China remained significantly smaller than the US but ahead of the UK. In 2015, total sales in China dropped 23% to $11.8bn according to the report compiled by art economist Dr Clare McAndrew, which pointed to poor auction sales as one of factors affecting the overall results in that country.

Due to China’s decline, the UK regained its position as the second largest market worldwide despite sales falling 9% in value to $13.5bn. The report indicates that sales overall in Europe were generally flat.

Top End Growth

A key set of statistics published in the report underlined the growth at the very top end of the art market.

In fact, the only price segment of the market to show an increase in value over 2015 was the ‘ultra-high’ value works (defined as items priced over $10m) which advanced 19% year-on-year. This sector accounted for 28% of total sales by value despite representing a very small fraction (0.1%) of overall transactions in the fine art market.

The report also indicated that this sector had grown exponentially over the last 10 years – increasing in value by a staggering 1000% by value over the decade. In the same period, growth in the high-end ($1m+ objects) far outpaced lower value areas, growing by 400% in value – four times or more than the rate of growth in sales in the low and medium segments.

Dealer Sales

The survey of over 6000 dealers for the TEFAF Report showed that dealer sales (including sales within the art trade) were down 4% on 2014 ($33.6m).

However dealers with sales under $500,000 reported that on average their turnover had increased 6% year-on-year, while dealers with sales of between $500,000 and

$1m reported increase of 10%.

Sales at art fairs represented 40% of all dealer sales while the average time to sell works in stock fell from 2014 levels as well.

Key Numbers from TEFAF Report

57%

Works sold for over $1m accounted for the majority of value in fine art auction sales during 2015, despite representing less than 1% of all transactions.

53%

Value of the total market accounted for by private sales by dealers and other agents. Sales at auction accounting for 47%.

40%

Percentage of sales made by dealers at art fairs in 2015 (estimated).

+7%

The increase in dealer sales at fairs in 2015

$4.7bn

The total value in online sales by traditional off-line dealers and auction houses. This figure represents 7% of the global market by value.

310,400

Number of businesses operating in the global art and antiques market in 2015.

46%

Transactions of Post War and Contemporary Art represented the largest share of global art market by value in 2015. However, auction sales fell by 14% to $6.8bn with a 20% drop in the number of transactions.

-33%

Auction sales of European Old Masters fell significantly by value in 2015 even though there was an increase of 4% by volume – showing a lack of high-value sales in this category. Private sales in this sector however were particularly strong.