Learn more about international trade in visual arts by exploring the latest statistics on the global art market.

Get the facts about global auction turnover and international cultural tourism in Australia.

Global art market
Global  -  Visual Arts

Relative to the global market for visual art, the Australian market is small. In 2011, Australian auction sales represented 0.6% of the total global auction market.

China is emerging as the largest visual arts market in the world in terms of auction sales, recording $5 billion in 2012 (41% of the global auction market) – highlighting big opportunities for Australia in the future.


The global art auction market is valued at over $12 billion, led by the US, China and the UK markets

In 2012, global art auctions generated $12.269 billion, of which $5.068 billion was generated in China and $7.2 billion in the rest of the world

Accounting for 41 percent of the global share, China has the largest share of global fine art auction turnover in 2012. The next largest markets – the USA and UK trail behind with 27 percent and 18 percent of turnover share respectively.[1]

Australia is emerging as a player on the art auction scene. While 2012 revenue was estimated by Artprice at $82 million,[2] this represents an increase on 2004 revenue.

[1]   Indexed auction records are based on Fine Art and Design catalogued auctions (paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, watercolors, etc) recorded by artprice.com, except antiques and furniture.

[2]   Note some differences in reported auction turnover for Australia exist between Artprice and Australia Art Sales Digest due to differences in definition and auction houses included in analysis.


Australia’s secondary market is small relative to the size of our economy

Art auction sales contribute considerably more to the GDP for the UK and China than Australia.

Despite growth over the years, Australia is still in the early stages with fine art auction revenue contributing to only 0.005 percent of GDP. In comparison, the secondary market is four time in Switzerland, relative to the size of its economy.


China is emerging as the largest visual arts market in terms of auction sales

China has been the leading global art auction market since 2010, with 41 percent market share in 2012 ($5.07 billion).[1]

This is $1.7 billion higher than the USA (in second place, with 27percent of global art sales) and $2.9 billion ahead of the UK (in third place, with 18percent of global art sales).

However after the rapid growth of 49 percent between 2010 and 2011, visual art auction sales in China increased more slowly (6 percent)  from 2011 to 2012. Despite this slower growth, auction sales in China continue to make up half of the top ten highest grossing artists worldwide.

[1]   Indexed auction records are based on Fine Art and Design catalogued auctions (paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, watercolors, etc) recorded by artprice.com, except antiques and furniture.


Paintings and drawings represent 96 percent of auction turnover globally

According to Artprice, paintings and drawings garner higher average prices at auction compared with sculpture, print and photographic works.

In 2010, it estimated that paintings and drawings accounted for 69 percent of lots sold, but 96 percent of auction turnover globally.


The majority of European auction sales relate to Modern art, but Contemporary and Post-war sales are growing

Sales of Modern art works represent 48 percent of the European visual art auction market. Artprice reports that in 2012 Modern works sold at auction generated over $3 billion in revenue.

Contemporary and Post-war works generate an increasing share of the market. Between 2000 and 2012, sales of Contemporary and Post-war works increased from 11 percent to 34 percent of European auction turnover.

Sales of ‘Old masters’ and ‘19th Century’ works have decreased over time, respectively accounting for just 8 and 11 percent of the market in 2012.


Cultural tourism in Australia

The Australian economy benefits from international visitors to museums and galleries

Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor Survey 2009, showed more than half (51 percent) of all overseas visitors attended at least one cultural attraction while in Australia.

Of these, 57 percent had visited a museum or art gallery and 17 percent had visited an art/craft workshop or studio.

Many also experienced Indigenous culture, with 20 percent ‘experiencing Aboriginal art/craft and cultural displays’, and 11 percent ‘visiting an Aboriginal site/community’.

International cultural and heritage visitors create economic benefits through longer stays and higher spending patterns than other tourists. In 2009, the average amount spent per trip was $6,280 compared with other international visitors who spent on average $3,832. This resulted in total spending of $16.3 billion in 2009.

Visitors from Asia accounted for 36 percent of all international cultural and heritage visitors. The United Kingdom and New Zealand accounted for a further 15 percent and 13 percent respectively.

The most popular destinations for both international and domestic cultural heritage visitors were New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, while rates of participation in cultural and heritage activities were higher in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.


Visiting museums and galleries is the most popular cultural activity for overnight and day trippers within Australia

During 2009, Australians took 9.5 million day trips and 9.3 overnight trips involving participation in cultural and heritage activities in Australia.

Overnight cultural and heritage visitors accounted for 14 percent of all overnight trips, and spent a collective 50 million nights at least 40 kilometres from home.

Visiting museums or art galleries was the most popular cultural activity for both domestic overnight visitors (43 percent visiting) and day trippers (36 percent visiting). By way of comparison, visits to historical/heritage buildings, sites or monuments attracted 29 percent of overnight visitors and 25 percent of day visitors.

As with international visitors, domestic cultural tourists spend significantly more on their trips than other tourists, creating higher economic impacts. The average amount spent per trip was $1,030 compared with those not participating in cultural and heritage activities, who spent on average $578 per trip.

Domestic travellers represent 87 percent of all cultural tourists, with over 18.8 million visitors in 2009. Across both international and domestic markets, the number of cultural visitors has grown at a rate of 2 percent per year since 2000.