blog (20) Image via VivreMieux

The Global Art Market Report states that the total turnover of auctioned art in the last six months is $ 8.45 billion, an 18% increase compared to the first half of 2017. This increase, which is consistent since last year, began with a rise of 9% in the first half of 2017 and 32% in the second half. These encouraging results confirm that the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis are, at last, a thing of the past.

This new "stability" is due, in part, to the impressive number of lots sold each semester (about 250,000). The 262,000 lots sold during the first half of 2018 represent an increase of 2.5% compared to H1 2017.

Sotheby's and Christie's, with a combined turnover of $ 5.2 billion, represent 61.5% of the worldwide auction market since the beginning of the year (when looking only at the fine art category).

blog Evolution of art market turnover by year and by semester, ©Artprice

The figures for the first half of 2018, place this year in fourth in comparison to the last 11 years of the Artprice ranking.

The performance of the high-value art market (i.e. works priced at more than $ 5 million) is highly dependent on the general economic context, but also on the level of trust placed in the market at the time of sales. The number of lots sold at more than $ 5 million in 2018 indicates that the current economic environment is particularly favorable, as there were 229 sold, compared to only 163 for H1 2017.

The 10 most expensive works of S1 2018, ©Artprice The 10 most expensive works of S1 2018, ©Artprice

The handful of exceptional works that exceed 100 million (two for H1 2018, Amedeo Modigliani and Picasso) appear very rarely in the auction room, but can have an impact on the overall turnover of the art market, as was the case for Salvator Mundi.

The United States remains the leader of the world market, with a total of 47,000 lots sold, as well as being the site of the 6 most expensive works of art of this first semester. All of the top 6 came under the hammer in New York last May. The US market generated $ 3.3 trillion in sales in H1 2018, 48% more than last year.

Geographical distribution of the art market for S1 2018, graphic © Artprice Geographical distribution of the art market for S1 2018, ©Artprice

Modern Art is on the roll

Collectors have shown an increase in interest in works from 1900 to 1940, including the latest Impressionist masterpieces, and, most importantly, the most prolific period of modern art. For this first semester, 20th-century art represents 80% of the total number of auctions in the fine art category.

Among the ten most expensive works of this first half of the year, eight were executed between 1900 and 1940, which places many impressionist and modern artists in the top 20, such as Claude Monet, Picasso, Modigliani and Matisse.

Read more about Picasso here!

The top 20 artists of 2018

Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol are no strangers to the top spots on the ranking, and this year is no exception. The sale of works by the two masters remains colossal, but also divided by a considerable number of works sold.

Top 20 artists from 2018 to date, © The Art Market Monitor Top 20 artists from 2018 to date, © The Art Market Monitor

The sale of works from the second half of the 19th - 21st centuries is staggering, and the appearance of artists like Warhol, Richter, or Hockney in the ranking proves that the demand for this work has not abated. Contemporary art sale is still indicative of the health of the market as a whole, both in terms of the number of transactions carried out and the turnover achieved.

In the first half of 2018, Jean-Michel Basquiat climbed up to the fourth place on the podium, with 64 works sold. Meanwhile, Constantin Brancusi dropped from 3rd to 15th place, with only 3 works sold during the semester, compared to the first half of 2017.

Read more on Jean-Michel Basquiat here!

In 6th position, we find the Chinese artist Zao Wou-ki, with a notable figure of $154,558,288. The works of the expressionist painter were mostly sold in Hong Kong (74%) and France (14%).

Following in 20th place is Yayoi Kusama, the third and last living artist of the ranking (together with Richter and Hockney), and the only woman represented with a turnover of $ 61,861,631 for 344 works sold.


Naturally, the USA remains the leader of the global market. Much thanks to the previous year’s sale of Salvator Mundi followed by the Rockefeller Collection sale - the highest valued private collection ever sold - this spring at Christie’s.

Read more on the world records of the Rockefeller Collection sale here!

Works by 20th-century masters such as Picasso, Matisse and Monet, included in the Rockefeller sale in May, were soon followed by the sale of Modigliani’s "Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)" (1917) at Sotheby’s in New York, making May and Manhattan the month and place bringing in the the largest number for high-end art in the world.

Amedeo Modiglianis, "Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)", 1917, image ©Sotheby's Amedeo Modiglianis, "Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)", 1917, image ©Sotheby's

United Kingdom

After the uncertainties in the UK art market caused by Brexit, starting in 2016, the first half of 2018 shows that the English art market is recovering with a second year of growth. The full-year total for fine art auctions in 2017 landed at $2.5 billion, and, in 2018, we already see a promising $1.9 billion sold.

Always in competition with New York for major European works, London keep its number one spot as leading market for artists Gerhard Richter and Pablo Picasso. At the same time, London has impressed the market with several high profile sales for American post-war and contemporary artists, such as Warhol and Basquiat.

Read more on the Pope of Pop here.


Cities like Paris, Milan, Vienna and Bern keep a secure position as strong actors on a dynamic art market platform in Europe. There is, however, still a long way to go for them to compete with the art market superpowers of the United States, China and the United Kingdom.

©Artprice ©Artprice

Paris maintained their place as fifth largest secondary art market in the world, and with houses like Drouot, Artcurial, Tajan, Aguttes, and Cornette de Saint Cyr the French capital is not completely dependent on auction house giants Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

Germany, with auction houses Kornfeld, Grisebach, Ketterer, Lempertz, Van Ham and Koller have increased the German turnover with 17% compared to the first half of 2017.

Find your favorite artists on Barnebys through a simple search!