Art Market: Prevision for the 2019
Fabio Noli 16 January 2019

In which direction is the Art Market going?
What are the main trends?
An overview of the main characteristics of 2018 for art and safe-haven assets explained through the numbers of our Auction house.



Art Market


Auction houses are a key indicator in understanding the main trends of the art and safe-haven asset market: here, the price is set by the highest offer, and the market is based on this. Also, Auction houses, as they manage various departments and numerous types of items and assets, have access to a wider and more interrelated perception of the markets and their trends. Since Cambi is in the lead on the Italian market and is constantly expanding on the international market, by looking back at our 2018, we can assess and understand the developments within our country and from Italy outwards.


Collectors and investments


In 2018, according to Deloitte and ArtTactic’s report, the financial factor took on a greater significance in the purchase of artworks. Collecting is no longer “pure”, meant for high-profile target sectors or for interior decor reasons. There is a growing awareness of the financial value of art, hence a greater attention to the investment aspect. The annual report also points out a strengthening in the emotional and social value of collecting. It comes as a natural consequence of the client’s greater focus on the financial factor to keep working on client relationships, in order to provide a more diversified offer that best fits the needs, also investment-wise, of those who decide to purchase art on auction.


The Market




Cambi’s 2018


2017 was an outstanding year for Cambi, a year in which we set a number of significant records, first and foremost the most expensive lot ever sold in Italy, the large gilt bronze figure of Amitayus (4,750,000 euros in the record-breaking auction of May 23, 2017) that crowned us leading auction house in Italy. It is, indeed, nearly impossible to repeat such an exceptional year; however, in 2018, the auction house has recorded a constant increase in turnover on a multi-annual level: +2% compared to 2016, +4% compared to 2015, +57% compared to 2014 and +16% compared to 2013.




International markets and individual departments


Cambi’s total sold divided by macro – categories.


One of the strongest-growing markets on a global level is Modern and Contemporary Art. While Modern art and art from the post-war period still constitutes the largest share of the market (accounting for 68% of the global value of the entire Art Market), contemporary art is also showing admirable growth on an international level, surpassing ancient and 19th century paintings in terms of sale revenue. In addition to well-established artists worth millions such as Jeff Koons or Jean Michel Basquiat, contemporary art saw a world record set for a piece by a living artist, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) by David Hockney, sold by Christie’s for 80 million euros.



Global modern and contemporary art trend. Copyright: Artprice


Cambi fits perfectly into this trend, and the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, with its 5,880,000 euros in revenue, records a remarkable +78% compared to the previous year, this also thanks to a more curated and refined selection. Various records were set in this field, among which the world sale price records for Italian figurative artists Antonio Donghi and Cagnaccio di San Pietro.



According to ArtTactic and Deloitte, the Design market has been fluctuating, with the exception of the field of the great Italian masters of modern decor such as Albini, Sottssass and Ponti: international markets show a constantly growing interest in this field, so much so that Christie’s has created a specific auction: Thinking Italian Design.
Cambi has been handling Italian design furniture and decor items for years: the Design department alone has made sales for 4,270,000 euros in 2018; an oval table with a slate base has set the all-time record for an Albini table and the second worldwide result for this artist.



There has been an overall downsizing in the ancient art market, especially if compared to the exponential growth of Modern and Contemporary Art both on a local and global level. It is, nonetheless, in the Ancient Paintings Auction that Cambi has found its Top Lot of the Year: the oil-on-canvas depicting Saint Jerome by Giovanni Serodine was sold for 337,500 euros.

The results in the jewelry and watches auctions, instead, hold steady with nearly 5 million euros in total sales. This is in line with the international trend that sees these two fields among the highest-selling markets.



The growth of the international market





In 2018, on a global scale, London, New York, Beijing and Hong Kong alone account for 82% of worldwide sales in Modern and Contemporary Art (with 17% total lots). Similar numbers go for the total sales in Ancient art in the same places (78% of sales for 14% of lots). London is the leading name in Europe, while the Big Apple maintains its position as world leader. As for the number of sold lots, London and Paris exceed New York, the latter focusing mostly on the top-range market. Asia is consistently growing, but still far behind the New York titans. The United States have also been the top foreign buyer at Cambi (16%). This year the Auction House has made sales in 55 Countries over the 5 continents. Foreign buyers have purchased lots for 50% of our total sales, in keeping with the trend set over the previous years. Foreign clients mostly participate in auctions for contemporary art, Oriental art, design, decorative arts, jewelry and watches, all of which are growing fields on an international level. They tend to purchase rare pieces and collector’s items by the most relevant and best-known artists on the international market. Among our foreign buyers, after the U.S., are the United Kingdom (14%) and China (11%).


Sales channels


The figures and facts confirm that online sales keep increasing: in 2018, 40% of lots was sold online. However, for the most important lots, the “classic” channels are still preferred (auction presence, telephone bids, pre-auction written bids), in fact the value of sales in the online market amounts to 16% [last year the online market had accounted for 12% sales in value and 37% lots]. The top lots for online sales have been a Gio Ponti dresser from 1950 ca. (Prod. Dassi) and a wood and steel Z desk by Gabriella Crespi (Italian record for a piece by this artist), both sold for 55,000 euros.


In conclusion


The Modern and Contemporary Art market is a field in which to keep investing and raising the game, by auctioning works by great Italian and International artists; the same goes for Design, if the focus is placed on Italian excellence. High-quality jewelry and watches are the items that most easily find buyers all over the world, as do important pieces of ancient art whose long-lasting value remains unchanged. A constant research and a careful selection that gives value to the quality of the offer are the grounds for an ongoing growth in the market. Planning top-notch auctions, with exclusive one-of-a-kind pieces and top-quality lots, is always one of Cambi’s main goals.

However, we must not forget an important share of market made up by small collectors, for which online sales are increasing and the average age of buyers is decreasing. Through Timed Auctions,  in fact, a younger share of buyers is approaching the world of auctions and collections in all fields, thanks to their accessibility and user-friendliness that close the gap between auction houses and younger audiences. With this in mind, and considering the interests of a growing niche of buyers, in 2018 Cambi has opened the new departments of Photography, Collectible Paper Items, Masters of Comics and Race and Classic Cars, with a great outlook for growth in this 2019.

Find out Cambi’s auction calendar at


Fabio Noli