The Art Market in 2013

Despite rumours of a 'triple dip recession' in 2013, the buoyancy of the international art market continues to surprise nearly everyone. Results at the top end of the market have never been better; especially in the contemporary, Impressionist and Modern art sectors. The sales in these areas this February remained phenomenal: how is it possible this boom can continue in 2013?

Many new museums are under construction around the world, and they need to be filled with works of art. These include many regional museums in China, and the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim, and an outpost of the Louvre by Jean Nouvel, both in Abu Dhabi. This forms part of a huge cultural shift as the Middle East establishes itself as a cultural centre on a par with the more traditional centres for art such as London, Paris and New York.

The rising number of global billionaires need to buy top works of art as well.

Globalisation in the West, coupled with an Industrial Revolution-sized burst of growth in much of the rest of the world has leading to the emergence of the wealthiest 0.1% who have accumulated dizzying amounts of money. These include individuals such as the Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim (worth $69billion), the Russian businessman Roman Abramovich and the Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani (worth $23.5bn). Forbes says that 840 of the 1,226 people in its 2012 billionaire rankings are self-made. When someone reaches this level of wealth, it is very probable that they will start buying art to hang on the walls of the many homes they own, if not for their own private museums. Art has always been a great status symbol, as well as (possibly) a great investment, as other investment opportunities become more volatile.

New art fairs opened up throughout the world last year; in May this year, there is a run of events—the main New York sales, followed by Frieze New York, Art Basel, Art Basel Hong Kong and the Venice Biennale (a sort of art fair as well, and certainly a must-visit event)—all taking place in less than five weeks.

It has long been said that art follows the money. Last year, oil-rich Azerbaijan threw itself behind a campaign to gain a place on the art map. Christie's organized an event in Baku to show off some of the things the newly rich Azeris could buy. A travelling exhibition of Azeri artists, Fly to Baku, sponsored by the foundation of the president's wife, will go on to Moscow and Rome this year after stops in London, Paris and Berlin.

Sotheby's, meanwhile, is holding a selling show of art from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and the 'Stans'—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan—in London in March.

We can therefore predict that the top end of the art world will continue to thrive in 2013. The globalization of the art market means the super-rich (the 1% of the wealthiest 1%) can access artworks at auctions and fairs around the world, and the growth of museums throughout China and the Middle East will continue to showcase art as a desirable commodity, both for individuals, and these new cultural centres.