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Prof. Roman Kräussl gives 2021 global art market outlook

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Published on Monday, 31 May 2021

Each year, Professor Roman Kräussl, member of the Department of Finance and expert in alternative assets, authors the Manager Magazin’s Kunstindex about the year’s global art market trends. Listing the 50 most popular artists in the world by sales at auctions, Prof. Kräussl highlights upcoming artists as well as the evolving ways in which art is bought and sold.

For 2021, a year marked by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prof. Kräussl focuses on the trend of using blockchain technology in digital art transactions. Citing the use of NFTs or “non-fungible tokens” in the place of the traditional certificate of authenticity, Prof. Kräussl imagines a world in which digital art is bought and sold with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Gallery owners, says Prof. Kräussl, are eager to share in some of the wealth created by the rise of these alternative assets.

Referring to up and coming 38-year-old 3D graphic artist Mike Winkelmann, alias ‘Beeple’, who recently sold a digital collage of 5000 works for 69 Million USD, Prof. Kräussl explains that Winkelmann’s path to becoming a high-value artist is marked by his use of social media platforms such as Instagram to build his young and enthusiastic fanbase as well as a willingness to eschew traditional transactions and to embrace technology such as blockchain.

Soon, artists such as Banksy (who is no. 17 on the Kunstindex), may even choose to use this payment and authentication technology to bypass the gallery/auction house model altogether, predicts Prof. Kräussl. This model would allow artists to sell directly to buyers. However, as in any financial market, it is important to recognize speculative buying. Some collectors consider the NFT trend to be more hype than substance. With the recent spectacular crash of the value of Bitcoin, it’s hard to argue any differently.

Prof. Kräussl also looks back on 2020, a year where lockdown measures slowed buying and pushed action sales down 40% from the previous year. In 2021, collectors are now seeking something fresh. Although this trend was already beginning pre-pandemic, the waning popularity of Modernists and Impressionists such as Claude Monet is accelerating among buyers, explains Prof. Kräussl. Even traditional ‘blue chip’ artists such as Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter are not rising in Prof. Kräussl’s Kunstindex rankings. Rather, it’s the new Internet-Pop artists such as Romanian Adrian Ghenie and Canadian Matthew Wong, without forgetting Beeple and Banksy, whose impressive sales at auction have fueled their meteoric rise in the 2021 index. 

Read the original article, “Das sind die wertvollsten Stars des globalen Kunstmarktes” in Manager Magazin. Prof. Kräussl also spoke to Der Spiegel in March 2021 about the digital art market, NFTs and cryptocurrencies.