Why has collecting become a need?

2021 has been the year of shocks and records, at least for the art market. While museums and galleries have suffered, auction houses have performed remarkably. Digital is accelerating this trend and is changing the ways of collecting.

Bettina Bush Mignanego

By Bettina Bush Mignanego18 janvier 2022

The year 2021 was a year of record sales, but also of new audiences. Never before have auction houses recorded so many new customers. The phenomenon was accelerated by digital sales, developed during the pandemic (Shutterstock)

Christie's results are memorable, with sales reaching 7.1 billion dollars, and a recorded growth of 54 % vs 2020, while Sotheby's reached new records with 7.3 billion dollars, the highest revenue over 277 years of business, with a 71 % growth vs 2020.

Significant records

On 15 November 2017, the painting Savador Mundi was sold at Christie's in New York for 450 million dollars (Shutterstock)

These figures are accompanied by incredible performances related to many works of art, among which the Botticelli painting of a boy holding a picture in his hands, which reached 92.2 million dollars at Sotheby's, which makes it the second most expensive Old Master after Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. Frida Khalo became the most expensive Latin-American artist, as her self-portrait reached 35 million dollars.

The piece to have reached the highest price is by far with Christie's, for “Woman sitting near a Window” by Picasso, at 103,4 million dollars. It was closely followed by “In this case” by Basquiat for 93,1 million dollars.

2021 has also been the year of NFTs. Christie's recorded the sale of its first NFT by Beeple for 69 million dollars, thus opening the market to crypto-art and crypto-currencies. As a reminder, Christie's sold 100 NFT at 150 million dollars, which represents about 8 % of the total contemporary art sales

Christie's has recorded the sale of Beeple's first NFT for $69 million (Beeple)

The year has also been one for the arrival of new audiences in the auction world, certainly thanks to digital. Christie's has indeed claimed that 35% of bidders were new buyers and that millennials represented one third of this audience. Some auctions which were live streamed from New York were followed on nine different social media platforms by over a million people, an incredible figure. This phenomenon has also been confirmed by the auction house Sotheby's: “The reached audience is the most significant one ever, declared Charles Stewart, CEO of Sotheby's, to the Guardian, adding: in over 277 years of business, we have never performed this well.”

Collecting to immerse in the lives of artists

Vittorio Sgarbi, Italian art critic, collector and president of the Mart of Rovereto and the MAG of Alto Garda (DR)

But why this craze for auctions? And why has collecting become a growing need? The question was asked to two great names of the worlds of art and culture, Vittorio Sgarbi, an Italian art critic, a member of parliament, Mayor of Sutri, Chairman of the Mart of Rovereto and of the MAG, as well as Micky Wolfson, an American businessman, philanthropist, and foremost founder of two museums: the Miami Wolfsonian and the Nervi Wolfsoniana. These two institutions illustrate the evolution of decorative arts, with hundreds of thousands of objects carefully curated, from a medallion to a train locomotive.

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