Topline

Art sales rose 29% last year to $65.1 billion, according to a report from Art Basel and UBS released Tuesday, in a strong recovery from pandemic doldrums driven by a surge in public auctions and online sales.

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The total, which includes art and antique sales by auction houses and dealers, also tops the $64.1 billion in sales UBS and Art Basel estimated for 2019 in their annual report,

Public auction sales jumped 47% to $26.3 billion in 2021 as in-person auctions paired with online live streams “were among the most successful,” according to the report.

Despite more in-person events last year, online sales rose 7% to $13.3 billion, accounting for 20% of the total market (that share is 5 percentage points less than in 2020, when online auctions largely replaced live events, but is still more than double the 9% recorded in 2019, the report noted).

Signs of revived market confidence included the return of more notable work to auction, the report says, including the landmark $676 million sale of the first half of the Macklowe collection – which is on track to break the record for the biggest public sale of an art trove – a handful of rare paintings by Jean Michel-Basquiat and “Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel” by Old Master Sandro Botticelli.