2023 Year in Review

In 2023, the art market experienced a period of volatility and correction, presenting both challenges and opportunities for collectors and artists alike. Amidst these fluctuating tides, we at Heather James Art Advisory embraced the excitement of launching our new venture, forging a path forward to best guide our clients through this dynamic landscape as we look ahead to what 2024 has to offer.

Public records and platforms have long made auctions a bellwether of art market trends, a role that continues but perhaps changes as the market landscape does. Sotheby’s reported $8 billion in sales, on par with their 2022 reporting, while Christie’s cited a 25% decrease to $6.2 billion. The latter suggested their stellar Paul Allen sale (whose collection our co-chairman Tom Venditti worked with for years) made 2022 a standout year hard to compare to, a fair assessment given this was the largest sale in auction history. 2023 showed a 7% increase from pre-pandemic numbers, indicating growth in the long term. Bonhams reported their best year to date.

Annual Sales in Billions of Dollars

Sotheby’s numbers were on par with last year, while Christie’s showed a slow down after an unprecedented 2022, but long term growth from the two largest auction houses continues.

Auction Houses Change Course

Within the auction landscape, new, often young, clients and non-auction sales were on the rise. Private sales accounted for 20% of Christie’s sales, and 35% of their client base were new clients, showing a rise in Millennial and Gen Z collectors. These trends underscore the importance of service-driven advisories and the need to guide clients whether they are decades into collecting or just beginning.

A continued focus on blue-chip artists, such as Picasso, Basquiat, and Monet, was seen in the biggest sales across auction houses, and sales by established female artists rose. While no woman broke the top 50 sales at auction in 2022, works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Mitchell, and Louise Bourgeois made the ranks in 2023. Sales also reflected significant years for artists in museums and galleries. Artists with blockbuster exhibitions, such as Picasso, Mitchell, Ruscha, and Brown, saw reflections in their sales. With an exciting year of exhibitions and the Venice Biennale beginning, it will be interesting to see how those events affect collectors’ interests.

While 2023 showed that the art market is not immune to the world around us, and economic trends such as inflation and interest rate fluctuations certainly played a role in collectors’ purchasing, we have seen the art market’s resilience and tendency to bounce back quickly. The last year showed signs of a correction following the mega-sales and unparalleled records that preceded it, making this a time of opportunity. The arrival of new collectors and the continued strength of the luxury market (S&P Global Luxury market increased over 14% from the end of 2022 to the same period in 2023) and art as an asset class are all good signs. As Heather James Art Advisory leaves our inaugural year behind, we are excited and optimistic about what 2024 will bring.

If you’d like to learn more about Heather James Art Advisory visit us at:
or email us at [email protected].

Tom Venditti

Sarah Fischel

Chip Tom

Senior Curator and Director of Museum Relations
+1 (310) 995-4341
[email protected]

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