A news study by Artprice.com calls China “the world’s largest art marketplace”, following an analysis of auction data for the first half of this year. The report estimated $6.53bn (including fees) in global sales turnover for the first six months of 2016, with China accounting for $2.32bn, or 35.5%, of that business. This marks an 18% turnover growth for China, made more impressive by the fact that the market seems to have contracted in the West, with London down 30% and New York down 49%.
Artprice attributes this worldwide slowdown to a lack of many high-quality works available at the moment: the number of transactions rose 3.2% this period, but sales totals dropped 25%. In this uncertain art economy, it seems, people are selling more, but for less. The Chinese auction business has also been considerably bolstered by strong results in one particular city—Hong Kong—which Artprice describes as “the only major marketplace in the world that has continued to post market growth (nearly +10%) and it is clearly keeping the Chinese art market alive”.
China’s boom was accompanied by increases in other unlikely markets, namely Belgium (which grew 12%), Turkey (7%) and Sweden (44%). The report also lists the top artists by value sold in the first half of 2016, which are, in order: Pablo Picasso ($196.4m), Daqian Zhang ($180.8m), Guanzhong Wu ($102.6m), and Jean-Michel Basquiat ($101.7m).