Research Outline

Living Artwork Resale Market


Of artworks that were sold at auctions over the past decade, determine how many were originally created within 3 years of being resold at an auction (i.e. a person bought an artwork from a gallery or artist, and then resold it at an auction). Also, quantify the reduction in coverage of arts by major U.S. newspapers and the amount of art education that has been cut from K-12 education in the U.S. over the last 10-20 years. Finally, compile statistics and other relevant data quantifying the number of new artists and artworks that have entered the market within the past decade.

This information will be used to develop a digital art education tool that will help art collectors and others interested in art navigate new artists and artworks in the market.

Early Findings

  • Between 1988-2018, the percentages of fine art items sold at auction by category changed from:
    • Old Masters — 1988: 8% | 2018: 7%
    • Impressionist & Modern — 1988: 79% | 2018: 51%
    • Postwar — 1988: 13% | 2018: 28%
    • Contemporary — 1988: <1% | 2018: 14%
  • As of 2018, there are an estimated 71,621 artists (both alive and deceased) with content in the art and auction market.
  • According to Tutela Capital S.A., contemporary and postwar artworks sold at auction between 1996-2012 were owned for an average of 6 years prior to resale. Contemporary artworks that appeared at auction within three years of their creation had remained relatively stable within this time frame, amounting to less than 2%.
  • Another review of the art market by Beautiful Asset found in 2014 that the percentage of artworks resold at auction within five years of their creation is higher than it was two decades ago in the 1990s, but has been steadily decreasing since 2008.
  • The National Assembly of State Art Agencies (NASAA) reported in 2019 that art funding in the U.S. has decreased by 43.4% since the 1960s.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics report that compared art education programs between 2009-2010, 17% of public schools did not offer any visual arts' education programs.
  • In 1999, the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University found that performing arts and visual arts took up approximately 11% and 6% of space, respectively, within a given newspaper.

Summary of Early Findings

Within our first hour of research, we identified a number of sources that hinted at the growing popularity of contemporary art amongst buyers, as well as two estimates regarding the percentage of contemporary artworks that are resold at auction within 3-5 years of their creation. Although these estimates are slightly outdated, they do indicate that the current estimates are likely very low. We also located a number of statistics that defined the reduction in art education and funding in U.S. schools, as well as how much space art news used to take up in newspapers approximately 20 years. The availability of this information indicates that further research could yield fruitful data.

Based on these early findings, we are confident that the proposals suggested below will offer a more comprehensive analysis of new artwork resale at auctions, the market size of new artists and artworks, and changes in funding and coverage of the arts in U.S. schools and media.