The State of the Art Market 2022: A return to strong growth

The State of the Art Market 2022: A return to strong growth

Last year showcased the resilience of the art world. With numerous art fair openings, record masterwork sales, and the introduction of new tokenised solutions, the art world rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. It seems the art world has entered a post-pandemic phase of euphoria.

Executive Summary:

  • The art market showcased its resilience despite Covid-19 restrictions
  • The market made a full recovery returning to pre-pandemic levels with global sales reaching USD 65.1 billion
  • The Paul G. Allen collection sold for USD 1.5 billion, making it the most valuable private collection in art history
  • Paris and Seoul emerged as key locations in the art market space
  • 2022 saw a shift in traditional business models, a rise in digital solutions and increased volatility in the NFT sector
  • Sygnum is becoming increasingly more involved in the art market, holding client events at prominent art museums, tokenising masterworks and introducing its own NFT platform

Returning to pre-pandemic levels

In 2022, the art market returned to pre-pandemic levels, with global sales reaching a total of USD 65.1 billion – the US accounting for 43 percent of sales, followed by China at 20 percent, overtaking the UK at 17 percent. France also had its highest sales since a decade[1].

59th Biennale in Venice

The 59th Venice Viennale, one of the most renowned art events, opened in April. Curated by Cecilia Alemani under the theme ‘The Milk of Dreams,’ the exhibition featured works that explored questions of human definition and the relationship between the body and our planet. The theme of femininity was also featured in the exhibition, with around 90 percent of the exhibiting artists being women. The event took place throughout the historic city of Venice.

Left: Venice, Right: Katharina Fritsch’s “Elephant” at the Venice Biennale Exhibition 2022

80 countries presented curated national pavilions at the Venice Biennale, a major opportunity for over 200 exhibiting artists as it boosts international visibility, populartiy and value. The Golden Lion award, which is considered a prestigious honour, was awarded to Afro-American artist Simone Leigh and to the Pavilion of Great Britain. The Biennale attracted a record-breaking 800,000 visitors[2].

Auction Highlights

Shot Sage Blue Marylin, 1964

Christie’s made headlines last year by breaking several records with artworks selling for over USD 100 million. Andy Warhol’s ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ sold for a record USD 195 million, making it the second most expensive artwork ever sold at an auction.

The painting was part of the Thomas and Doris Ammann collection in Switzerland, with proceeds going to the couple’s foundation for helping children. The painting is one of five in a series shot with a revolver by performance artist Dorothy Podber. The bullet holes are still visible adding to its uniqueness and rarity.

Source: Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 1964. Sold at Christie’s in New York in May 2022

Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection

On November 9th last year, 60 works from the collection of Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen were sold at Christie’s in New York, achieving a total of USD 1.5 billion in sales [3], making it the most valuable private collection in history. The proceeds will be donated to philanthropic causes.

The collection included masterworks from the renaissance era to contemporary art. Five paintings sold for over USD 100 million. The top piece, ‘Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version)’ by Georges Seurat, sold for USD 149 million. Other record pieces were sold from artists like Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Gustav Klimt and Vincent van Gogh.

Art Fairs

Starting in January last year, the art fair marathon took off to a quick start and convention centres transformed into temporary exhibitions one after another. But by the end of the year, gallerists and attendees experienced the “fair-tigue” as the constant travel, socialising and visual overload began to take its toll.

Art Basel

After two years of pandemic restrictions, the most prominent art fair in the world returned in full force in June 2022. Flooded with VIPs and reports of good sales by galleries, the most notable sale was a Louis Bourgeois Spider, sold by Swiss mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth for USD 40 million[4].

Source: Louise Bourgeois’ Spider, 1996 – Art Basel 2022.

Paris+ par Art Basel and new Art Basel CEO

Art Basel announced the launch of a new location in Paris. It took over the traditional Parisian fair FIAC and ran under the name ‘Paris + Art Basel’. The first edition was successful with a visit from French President Emmanuel Macron.

In November last year, Art Basel’s CEO Marc Spiegler stepped down after 15 years, handing over to Noah Horowitz, who re-joined from Sotheby’s[5].

Palais x Eiffel Tower

Art and Seoul: A new art hub in South Korea’s capital?

Frieze, one of the world’s most influential contemporary art fairs, held its first edition in Seoul, South Korea in September 2022. A total of 110 galleries from around the world exhibited at the fair. A lot of young affluent collectors in their 30s, heavily influenced by K-culture and luxury, also attended the art fair.

The Art Basel and UBS Report 2021 reported a 46 percent wealth increase in South Korea, the second highest globally after India. South Korea’s art market has tripled in recent years due to the rise of many new young collectors, auction houses, gallery networks and private museums. Western galleries such as Perrotin, Pace, König and Ropac have also moved to Seoul in recent years, and the city has gained international recognition in the art world.

Sygnum in the Art World: Bringing masterpieces to the blockchain

On November 3rd 2022, Sygnum Bank hosted a client event at the Kunsthaus in Zurich, the city’s most important art institution. The event featured a panel discussion on the intersection of art finance, the traditional art market, and new technologies like tokenisation, with speakers including Adriano Picinati Di Torcello of Deloitte, Sygnum’s Head of Tokenisation Fatmire Bekiri, and Thomas Stauffer, Art Advisor and co-founder of Gerber & Stauffer Fine Arts.

Additionally, Thomas Eichenberger, Sygnum’s Head of Business Units, announced the launch of the company’s new NFT platform and handed out commemorative NFTs to guests.

Left: Kunsthaus Zürich, Right: Thomas Eichenberger & Fatmire Bekiri

VWT 1: David Pflugi, The Victory Works Collection

In March of last year, Sygnum collaborated with renowned Swiss artist David Pflugi on a contemporary art project. Pflugi’s artworks captivate viewers with their ability to change perception when viewed from different angles, an effect that can also be experienced in Sygnum’s Decentraland gallery where digital twins of the sculptures are exhibited.

In his Victory Works Collection, Pflugi created sculptures in honour of three football world championships. The sculptures carry the personal signatures of all finalists and coaches of the winning and runner-up teams, and are considered genuine, high value pieces of global sporting history. Recently in Qatar, the Argentinian and French finalists signed a new sculpture for the ongoing project.

The tokenised portfolio of three sculptures will be sold through an auction at the end of the investment horizon of 2-3 years. Tokenholders will receive a share of the proceeds in proportion to the number of tokens they own. Victory Works will retain about half of these tokens and donate 20 percent of the proceeds to charities supporting children in developing countries.

David Pflugi

Sygnum’s NFT platform

The past two years have been a wild ride for NFTs, but in late 2022, Sygnum launched its own NFT platform to provide a safe and secure experience for professional creators and a variety of potential collectors alike.

The platform offers end-to-end support, from concept definition to collection management, ensuring compliance and security while providing state-of-the-art customer experience. This allows an NFT experience without the need for technical knowledge like coding. Additionally, Sygnum’s platform also facilitates payments with credit cards and fiat currencies and offers bank-grade custody and an all-in-one account solution for creators who become banking clients.


[1] The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, Art Basel, March 29, 2022.

[2] Biennale Arte 2022 closes over 800000 tickets, La Biennale, November 26, 2022.

[3] Visionary The Paul G Allen Collection, Christie’s, November 9-10, 2022.

[4] Louise Bourgeois Sale Art Basel Hauser Wirth, Art News, June 14, 2022.

[5] Change at the helm of Art Basel: Noah Horowitz appointed CEO, Art Basel, October 28, 2022.

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