Some gallery owners, beSingular customers, have asked us about the effects of COVID on the art market. As most companies that consign, buy, and sell artworks have no obligation to disclose results, to answer this question we need to use 'proxies', clues to get the information.
For this work, we use official export and import data from more than 20 countries, those with more relevance in artwork transactions, as 'proxies' to try to understand the size of the impact of the new coronavirus on the market for galleries, auction houses, collectors, and collections in the world.
The data was kindly provided by Trade Data Monitor, a company based in Geneva, Switzerland, which has relationships with the countries' trade agencies.
In the international market, countries use codes that identify the category of each product or service transacted. To perform this work, we use only the category "Paintings, drawings & pastels, executed entirely by hand" (code 970110). Therefore, the figures presented here do not represent the total transactions and the total market size.
It was not our objective to study variations in the price of artworks due to the pandemic and, as we only deal with import and export data, the countries' domestic market are not accounted for.
Some galleries are selling works online at exhibitions and in virtual versions of art fairs. Please note that if the transport of the artwork (through a regular export-import process) has not yet taken place, the study also does not capture these transactions. We consider it interesting to observe, in future months, whether peaks and new seasonal behaviors will occur due to e-commerce.
The data was last updated on August 8th, 2020. On that date, some countries had already reported the data until June, others only until May.
The art market shows a reduction of more than 50% in the volume of trade.
Consolidating the data from the 20 countries studied, we concluded that, in the category 970110 (paintings), the art market presents a reduction of more than 55% in the volume of trade in 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
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Difference between 2020 and 2019 by country
The graphs below analyze the significant reduction in exports and imports in 2020 compared with the same period of 2019. Note that a few countries showed an increase in imports.
Brazil leads in reduced volume of exports; the UK in reduced volume of imports.
These graphs show exports and imports variations (in US dollars) for the top nine countries.
The tables below summarize exports and imports from the countries analyzed, both by volume in US dollars and the percentage of change.
Note the "seasonality" column that shows how much the period already reported by countries represents the total annual transactions that the country does in the year, on the average of the years 2017, 2018, and 2019. To help you understand the data, look at the half circle that appears in the export table in line with Spain. It indicates that in the period reported in 2020, calculating the average in the same period in the last 3 years, Spain would have already exported half of what it ships in the total for the year. In other words, the more filled the circle, the fewer opportunities the country has to improve its performance even in 2020.
"Last Date" indicates, by country, the most recent month in which the country reported data to Trade Data Monitor.
The 2008 financial crisis was very different from the one we are experiencing with COVID. However, we took advantage of this study to show how long it took the market to recover after that crisis.
You can see in the graphs below that it took both the United States and Switzerland 5 years to recover.