Zoe Diao

Curatorial Fellow, Whitechapel Gallery

Art Basel Hong Kong 2022. Courtesy: Art Basel.

As part of a series of reflections by our Fellows, we have partnered with ArtReview to publish a collection of writings that will explore and unlock the future of curatorial and research practice. Here, Zoe Diao deciphers the numbers and figures of recent art-market reports, on a quest to find answers to the question of regional nuances.

"A look back to art-market reports from 2019 can be a sentimental experience. Especially, that year’s Artnet Intelligence Report, titled Welcome to the Age of the Art Industry (The Art World Is Over), which - riding a cheery wave of progress and bluster - declared that the incoming decade was going to witness a new ‘art industry’ in which artworks would be sold via apps, midnight texts and PDFs; new audience, new media. Unfortunately, thanks to the effects of the pandemic, many of these predictions have been realised in a way neither the art world, nor the art industry, or the wider world ever wanted.
Yet, with the way paved by the ArtPrice Report and Deloitte and ArtTactic’s Art & Finance Report in the early 2000s, market reports have become a part of the contemporary art landscape. This has additionally been accelerated in our information age thanks to revolutionary developments in statistics and data science. Although, it goes without saying in an artworld in which many transactions are opaque, and in which many of the organisations involved in creating these reports are interested in the market’s success, that any datasets and the conclusions derived from them are both partial and targeted. And yet, as much as they try to report the measure of value in art, they often create it as well.
Launched in 2017, the annual Art Basel & UBS Art Market Report has established itself as the most authoritative study of the art market, followed by the twice-yearly Artnet Intelligence Report, inaugurated a year later. Since 2013, Artnet has also co-published (in collaboration with the China Association of Auctioneers) a series of Global Chinese Art Auction Market Reports, although that went on hold in 2020.
These reports often revolve around three major hubs: the US – the perennial market leader – followed by the UK and China brawling for second place. However, while all these stylishly designed art-market reports talk about the ‘Chinese art market’, you might struggle to work out what and where that market actually is."

Click here to read Zoe's full article for ArtReview, published on 13 June.