Artmarket com : Artprice looks back over 2021 auction highlights and the NFT phenomenon

Artprice looks back on the highlights of the 2021 auctions and the NFT phenomenon

[11 Jan 2022]

The term ‘NFT’ was voted word of the year 2021 (all languages) by the Collins English Dictionary. The blockchain technology supporting the existence of NFTs was officially born in 2017, but it is only in the last ten months that it has gained the attention of the general public by entering the auction sphere of art. Today, it seems that everyone is talking about NFT …
This new digital market could merge completely with the physical art market; it already represents 8% of global auction turnover in the secondary art market. However, the two universes could also develop in parallel, with brief forays into territory on the other, the physical world on one side and the metaverse on the other… like Ying and Yang.

Artprice looks back on the significant developments in 2021, quarter by quarter.

“The appearance of NFTs in the auction sphere represents a real revolution, the intensity of which can be explained both by long-bottled demand and a particularly favorable economic context. Beeple’s first record ($ 69.3 million) in March perfectly illustrates this The NFTs challenge the traditional modus operandi of the art market, since artists with no commercial history (but with a huge community on social networks) can, in a few hours, reach prices usually reserved for like René Magritte and Willem de Kooning “. thierry Ehrmann, CEO and founder of and its Artprice department

Q1: Boticelli vs. Beeple

Unveiled in September 2020, just before a second global wave of the Covid pandemic, Portrait of a young man holding a cockade attributed to the Florentine painter Sandro BOTTICELLI was put up for sale by Sotheby’s in New York on January 28, 2021. Despite a still uncontrollable pandemic, this rare masterpiece by Botticelli has sold for $ 92 million, second highest auction result of all time for a work by an ancient master.

However, the biggest surprise of the year came on March 11, 2021 when Christie’s The online auction platform sold what at first glance looked like a simple jpeg … for $ 69.4 million. The artist behind the work, BEEPLE, was completely unknown to the art market, but he had millions of Instagram followers who are familiar with the 5,000 digital images offered by Christie’s in the form of an NFT. unique. Faced with the unexpected enthusiasm of new bidders, the prestigious auction house of François Pinault accepted payment in cryptocurrency for the first time in its history.


Q2: A burst of records in the spring

It took a few months for the art market to fully appreciate the nature and implications of non-fungible tokens. During April 2021, two other major auction houses are also launched in the sale of NFT: Sotheby’s with The Fungible Collection by PAK, and Phillips with work Replicator by MAD DOG JONES.

In May 2021, big New York City traditional art sales resumed, and a very physical piece of art crossed the $ 100 million threshold for the first time in two years. Woman seated near a window (Marie-Thérèse) (1932) by Pablo PICASSO was acquired for $ 103 million at Christie’s on May 13, 2021. In its wake, almost all of the big names in the art market have obtained very reassuring prices: Basquiat, Monet, Van Gogh, Warhol… with many artists who are revising their personal records. ‘auction.


Top 5 new artist records recorded in May 2021 in New York

  1. Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park # 40 (1971) – $ 27,265,500 – 05/12/2021, Sotheby’s
  2. Larval laboratories: 9 cryptopunks – $ 16,962,500 – 05/11/2021, Christie’s
  3. Robert colescott: George washington […] (1975) – $ 15,315,900 – 05/12/2021, Sotheby’s
  4. Hassam Child: Flags on 57th Street, winter (1918) – $ 12,328,500 – 05/12/2021, Sotheby’s
  5. Barbara hepworth: Parent II (1970) – $ 7,110,000 – 05/13/2021, Christie’s.


Q3: Online sales did not stop during the summer

Traditionally, the big auction houses have always taken a break from sales during the months of July and August, in connection with the closure of art galleries and art fairs. But in 2020, the postponements caused by the covid pandemic and the establishment of new online sales platforms have prompted auction houses to continue part of their activities throughout the summer period, an exercise that will continue. is repeated in 2021, the online sale ensuring the circulation of works at destination. all over the world.

A total of 121,000 lots of works of art were auctioned in the third quarter of 2021. This historic transaction intensity for the summer period was largely driven by the Asian market; not only through sessions in Hong Kong, but also in mainland China, South Korea and Japan.


Top 3 Fine Art results in Asia in July and August 2021

  1. Yayoi Kusama (1929): Pumpkin (1981) – $ 4,290,000 – 07/31/2021, Mainichi Tokyo
  2. Fu baoshi (1904-1965): Spring (1963) – $ 4,400,000 – 07/25/2021, Xiling Yinshe Hangzhou
  3. What is Ki Kim (1913-1974): 1-VII 71 # 207 (1971) – $ 4,152,720 – 8/24/2021, Seoul auction


Q4: All the indicators turn green …

The months of October and November saw countless new records for all creative periods: Jackson Pollock, Gustave Caillebotte, Peter Doig, Frida Kahlo, Banksy, Pierre Soulages, Agnès Martin, etc. Sales of two very prestigious American collections – the Impressionist Cox Collection at Christie’s, and the Post-War Macklowe Collection at Sotheby’s – made the last quarter of 2021 the most successful Q4 in the history of the American art market.

Expected to bounce back after 2020 marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, Artprice will take a closer look at this very positive turn of events in its next Annual Art Market Report.

Besides the NFT phenomenon, one of the key trends of the year was the emergence of the Hong Kong market which turned out to be absolutely decisive for the world art market as a whole. Not only did it host sales of major works by Jean-Michel Basquiat in Asia for the first time, but it also broke records for major signings, both Western (Richard Prince) and Asian (Yayoi Kusama). But above all, Hong Kong has established itself as the new hub for red chip artists – that is, young signatures who trigger passionate auctions – like American artist Avery SINGER and Ghanaian artist Amoako BOAFO. Finally and especially… Hong Kong is also emerging as one of the major new capitals for NFT sales..


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