Chapter 3 Auction Sales 

Chapter 3 looks at the auction sector, analyzing key trends in sales by region and value segment, and how they have been impacted by the pandemic in 2020. It presents a comprehensive analysis of some of the principal fine art auction sectors, describing their performance in terms of sales, regional market share, and price distribution.

Public auction sales of fine and decorative art and antiques (excluding private sales) were $17.6 billion in 2020, a decline of 30% on 2019.  Private sales were conservatively estimated to have reached over $3.2 billion in 2020 (up 36% on 2019). Total auction sales, including public and private, were estimated to have reached $20.8 billion.

Global Public Auction Sales 2011–2020

Public auction sales of fine and decorative art and antiques (excluding auction house private sales) were $17.6 billion in 2020, a decline of 30% on 2019. 

Total Auction Sales (Public and Private)

The three largest auction market hubs of Greater China, the US, and the UK maintained their dominant position in 2020, with a combined share of 81% of public auction sales by value.

Public Auction Market Global Share by Value in 2020

Sales over $1 million made up the majority (58%) of the total value of offline fine art public auction sales, whereas they accounted for just 6% of total online-only values. The majority of value (67%) in the online-only market was accounted for by sales between $5,000 and $250,000.

Share of Global Fine Art Auction Sales by Price Bracket (Online versus Offline)

In 2020, the largest sector in the fine art public auction market by value was again Post-War and Contemporary art (55% by value), which along with Modern art accounted for just over 81% of the value of sales at fine art auctions.

Market Share by Sector of the Fine Art Auction Market in 2020

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