NFTs Might Be What 2021’s Recovering Art Market Needs

A new study from UBS and Art Basel shows that global sales of art and antiquities shrunk by 22% in 2020.

Andy Warhol’s ‘Three Self Portraits’ at Christie’s Auction House on March 16, 2021. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The art world worked overtime to keep things up and running during the pandemic despite the inability to congregate in person. Virtual exhibitions were quickly made available for patrons stuck at home and online auctions quickly became the dominant marketplace option for galleries of all sizes. Even with this dextrous, speedy and industry-wide adoption of innovative technology, UBS and Art Basel‘s latest Art Market report shows that global sales of art and antiquities shrunk by 22% in 2020, marking the biggest drop since the 2009 recession. However, new hope may be on the horizon in the form of NFTs, the hottest and most controversial commodities on the market.

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Just last September, another UBS study showed that 60% of young millennial collectors expressed optimism about how the art market will bounce back in the wake of the pandemic. Given that the digital artist Beeple’s NFT “Everydays” recently sold for over $69,000,000 at Christie’s, it’s safe to say that even though there are kinks to be worked out in the NFT landscape, the sale and exchange of Non-Fungible Tokens could continue to invigorate an industry that has spent decades focused on objects that can be perceived solely in the physical world.

Additionally, the most recent UBS / Art Basel study illustrates that what was an awful year for so many was not an awful year for everyone. In 2009 the number of billionaires worldwide dropped by 30%, and billionaire wealth decreased by 45%. Contrastingly, in 2020, the number of billionaires worldwide grew by 7%, and their wealth also grew by 32%. With 61% of art fairs canceled last year, people had to turn away from the common square in order to make money, and those who already had incredible amounts of money certainly found a way to maintain this pattern.

NFTs Might Be What 2021’s Recovering Art Market Needs