Art market hits record $53.7 billion worldwide

Detail of "Elephant" by artist Nam June Paik, Carl Solway Gallery
Source: ADAA Art Show
Detail of "Elephant" by artist Nam June Paik, Carl Solway Gallery

Worldwide sales of art soar to an all-time high of $53.7 billion in 2014, an increase of seven percent from the year prior, as the world's richest collectors snap up fine art in record numbers.

This year's closely watched TEFAF Art Market Report, considered the most comprehensive source for worldwide auction sales, found buyers from the United States dominating the market.

In 2014, Americans bought 39 percent of all global fine art purchases, followed by China (22 percent) and the United Kingdom (22 percent).

TEFAF's Clare McAndrew said, "It continues to be a highly polarized market, with a relatively small number of artists, buyers and sellers accounting for a large share of value."

"Uber wealthy shatter art record sales" -Artist: Nam June Paik, Carl Soloway Gallery

About 1,530 auction lots for over $1 million were sold at auction in 2014, (including 96 for over $10.5 million) a 17 percent from 2013.

Post War and Contemporary (defined as artists born after 1910) artworks remain the largest and most popular sector of the fine art world (48 percent of all fine art sales), thanks in large part to Wall Street's ravenous appetite for alternative investments.

Two of the most-well known collectors in the financial world include hedge fund managers Leon Black,vice chairman of the New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and Dan Loeb, who sits on the board of trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles.

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Detail of artwork by Ree Morton, Alexander & Bonin Gallery
Source: ADAA Art Show
Detail of artwork by Ree Morton, Alexander & Bonin Gallery

Sales of Modern art (defined as artists born between 1875 and 1910) accounted for approximately 28 percent of the global fine art market, with buyers split almost equally between China (30.6 percent) and the U.S. (30.5 percent).

Hollywood is starting to close the gap behind Wall Street. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has been amassing an impressive portfolio of canvases, including works from Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ed Ruscha, Frank Stella and Takashi Murakami, according to Artnet.com.

While auctions remain the most popular way to purchase fine art, collectors are also buying and selling through other venues, including art fairs, $2.42 billion across 180 fairs last year, and online art sites $3.48 billion in 2014.

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