The international survey of HNW collectors presented by Art Basel and UBS makes reference to a buoyant demand from high net worth (HNW) collectors to buy both locally and internationally, as well as a strong desire to engage with viewing and buying art in person, and focuses on their spending, travel, and trade within the art market in 2022. The survey takes into account over 2,700 collectors in 11 key global markets: the report examines the willingness of collectors to travel and attend events post-COVID, as well as their changing sentiment towards buying locally versus internationally. The report also profiles the composition of their collections in terms of gender, artist status, and other key variables; and examines the international trade in art across borders.
Key findings of A Survey of Global Collecting in 2022 include:
- International Trade: After a significant slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the international cross-border trade in art recovered strongly in 2021 and 2022. Imports of art and antiques increased 41% from 2020 to 2021 and exports were up 38%, with initial reporting on the first half of 2022 indicating continued double-digit increases. If growth continues at the same pace in the second half of 2022, cross-border trade could reach record levels in the major markets for art.
- HNW Collections: HNW collectors tended to hold a balanced selection of living and deceased artists’ works, with an average of 53% of works by living artists and 47% by deceased artists. Collections also contained a balanced mix of works by new and emerging artists, mid-career artists, and established and top-tier artists. In 2022, rather than expanding, the share of works by local artists held in collections decreased slightly. When it came to the gender of the artist, although still unbalanced (58% male, 42% female), the share of works by female artists held in collections increased over time. Just under half (49%) of the objects in collections in 2022 were paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, while 15% were digital art, 9% of which had an NFT associated with them.
- HNW Collector Spending: Expenditure in the first half of the year and planned spending for the remainder of 2022 indicates strong confidence in the market and significant purchasing intent. Spending increased in all markets, with the highest levels in the first half of 2022 in France, Mainland China, and Hong Kong. Across all markets the median expenditure of HNW collectors in the first six months of 2022 at $180,000 was higher than the entire year in 2021 ($164,000), with both surpassing averages in pre-pandemic 2019 (at $100,000). Plans for the remainder of the year indicated intentions to spend even more, which could push the total median expenditure for the year to more than double the level of 2021. In addition to buying more, HNW collectors were also buying at higher prices, with the share of regularly buying works priced at over $1 million doubling from 12% in 2021 to 23% in 2022.
- Buying Channels for HNW Collectors: In 2022, 93% of collectors surveyed bought art through a gallery or dealer, either directly, online, or via a fair. Collectors spent the most through dealers, accounting for 45% of their overall expenditure in 2022, including 13% at galleries directly, 15% via dealers at art fairs, 10% via online dealer platforms, and 7% by phone or email. Art fairs have bounced back, with 74% of the collectors surveyed purchasing at an art fair in 2022 (versus 54% in 2021), including both in person and OVR purchases. Online spending continues to grow despite the resumption of in person events and fairs, and 95% of the HNW collectors surveyed had purchased works of art without viewing them in person first, with just over half (51%) regularly doing so.
- Collectors and Dealers in 2022: Dealers and galleries were the first preference for most HNW collectors when it came to buying art. Of those who preferred dealers, 42% would prefer buying from them in person (down from 57% in 2020), with 37% preferring online (up by 8% from 2020), revealing an increase in acceptance of buying sight unseen. While 95% of the HNW collectors surveyed had purchased works of art without viewing them in person first, nearly all collectors (93%) thought it was important (42%) or very important (51%) to see a work in person before purchasing it, with their trust in the seller, familiarity with the artist, the price, and medium of the work being the most important deciding factors. Of those collectors who worked with galleries, the average number they worked with increased from 13 in 2019 to 16 in 2022. There was no obvious large-scale shift towards local galleries, with collectors working with a balanced 50:50 selection of businesses within and outside their region, with the share of local galleries declining by 4% from 2019.
- Events and Attendance: There were subtle changes to HNW collectors’ behaviors regarding events, with the number of events attended staying persistently lower than 2019 and a slight shift towards more local events. Collectors attended an average of 41 art-related events in 2019. This fell to 37 in 2022 (including those already attended and planned for the rest of the year). Interestingly, when they were asked if they plan to do more or less international travel for art-related experiences and events in the next 12 months, the responses showed a majority (77%) wanting to travel more. For those that were planning to travel less, the most important reason for cutting back was due to the remaining risks concerning COVID-19 (83%), while 63% felt it was important or very important to do so to help reduce their carbon footprint.
- Collectors’ outlook: Despite lingering uncertainties over the pandemic, inflation, recession, and world peace, most of the HNW collectors surveyed (78%) were optimistic about the global art market’s performance over the next six months. The majority of collectors (55%) were planning to buy art, up 2% from those planning to do so in 2021, while 39% of collectors planned to sell works from their collections over the next 12 months. The pandemic also appears to have encouraged philanthropic giving among some collectors, with 45% intending to donate works to a museum over the next 12 months, up from 29% in 2020 and 43% in 2021. Collectors’ top potential concerns about the current state of the art market in 2022 were increased regulation and identification requirements, rising legal issues, and barriers to international trade. The environmental impact of collecting is a growing concern, and the surveys showed evidence of increasing awareness of the importance of sustainable options when it comes to purchasing works and the management of collections (from 62% of collectors considering these options in 2019 to 77% in 2022). Nearly all collectors (98%) are willing to pay a 5% premium for sustainability, while 57% of collectors responded they would pay up to 25% more.
Clare McAndrew, Founder, Arts Economics, said: ‘The trade in art across national boundaries is central to the health of the commercial market but also an important means of cross-cultural communication and understanding. The unwavering engagement of HNW collectors in the art market has buoyed the recovery of imports, exports, and domestic sales in 2021 and 2022. Collectors are also becoming more aware of the sustainability of these activities in the global, event-driven art market. Balancing the negative externalities associated with international travel and the desire to share experiences in person – which remain integral to their plans in 2022 – is one of the biggest issues that the art world will have to continue to grapple with in the future.’
Marc Spiegler, Global Director, Art Basel said: ‘While the global art market is not immune to ongoing sociopolitical and economic uncertainties, Clare’s survey demonstrates that collectors maintain a positive outlook on the market and intend to spend more on art. While collectors are more selective about attending art events, viewing art in person continues to be important for most collectors. Nonetheless, buying online has grown in certain market segments and circumstances, stabilizing rather than retrenching the digital surge catalyzed by the pandemic.’