Despite the widespread disruption caused by the pandemic, the market for Chinese art and antiques demonstrated remarkable resilience in 2020. According to the ninth edition of the Global Chinese Art Auction Market Report, a partnership between Artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA), the market generated $5.7 billion in auction sales worldwide. Although this represents a slight decrease of 0.5 percent from the previous year, it is a remarkable achievement given the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic.
One of the most striking aspects of the report is the strong performance of the market in mainland China. As the first country to be hit by the pandemic, many experts had predicted that the market would suffer a severe contraction. However, the opposite proved to be true, with mainland China seeing a healthy 15 percent increase in sales to reach $4.4 billion. Sales in China accounted for the majority of the total, as the market for Chinese art and antiques outside mainland China shrank by almost a third.
The report also highlights a significant increase in the market for ultra-high-end art, with 28 Chinese artworks priced at $14.5 million and above sold at auction. This represents more than five times the number sold in 2013, and is a clear indication of the continued strength and vitality of the market. Notably, the growth in the market was driven by mainland China, where 17 lots found buyers in 2020 compared to eight in 2019.
The pandemic also led to significant technological advances in the market, with many auction houses adopting online bidding and online-only auctions. In 2021, mainland auction houses hosted over 5,800 online-only sales, an increase of 6 percent in total sales volume. This is a clear indication of the market’s adaptability and willingness to embrace new technology in the face of unprecedented challenges.
In conclusion, the Global Chinese Art Auction Market Report demonstrates that the market for Chinese art and antiques remains strong and resilient in the face of adversity. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the market has demonstrated remarkable adaptability and innovation, and is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the years ahead.