NFTs contemporary art sales rebound to all-time high of $2.7bn

By Raffaele Redi

Contemporary art auctions rebounded to a new record of $2.7bn

 Smartphone with Beeple                                 
Smartphone with Beeple Everydays: the First 5000 Days – Photo: Shutterstock

Contemporary art auctions rebounded to an all-time high of $2.7bn over the last year, with non-fungible-tokens (NFTs) accounting for a third of online sales.

This represents 2% of the overall art market, according to an annual report by Artprice released on Monday.

The NFT attracts "new collectors, with an average age of 32 years, generation 2.0, who buy art at lower prices but as a way of life, art remaining, facing all that is reproducible, the last singular gesture," said Thierry Ehrmann,'s publication director.

According to the report, in 2020-2021, NFT accumulated nine millionaire sales, three times more than photography, according to the report. Contemporary art now represents 23% of the art market, as opposed to 3% in 2000-2001.

Beeple represents 3% of the contemporary market

Unknown at public auction last year, 40-year-old American Mike Winkleman known as Beeple, is now one of the most sought-after artists in their lifetime, after David Hockney and Jeff Koons. Beeple's first NFT, Everyday's: The First 5000 days, sold for $69.3m at auction with a starting price of just $100.

Christie's said 22 million people, nearly 60% under the age of 40, logged in to the sale, the first public auction of an NFT.

Previously, Beeple remained under the radar, but now has several million followers on Instagram, resulting in attracting the attention of Christie's auction house. Beeple represents 3% of the contemporary art market, according to the report.

The highest-selling contemporary artist is Jean-Michel Basquiat. The US artist, who died in 1988, has generated $93.1m in sales over the past year, according to a Guardian report. Beeple comes in second, due to his landmark NFT sale.

NFTs have experienced an unprecedented boom in the past year

Fine art auctions generated $6.9bn in H1 2021, up 3% in  H1 2019. Sales collapsed by a third in 2020 because of the initial crisis caused by the pandemic. However, sales rose between June 2020 and June 2021, as auctioneers quickly adopted a more online approach.

However, according to ‘NonFungible’ the overall NFT market generated nearly $2.5bn over the first five months of 2021. 

“The market was characterised by the sensational arrival of NFTs and sky-high prices for works by very young and popular artists, both phenomena which suggest a strong urge to shake up the established order,” reported Artmarket.

“While collectors seem to be in a hurry to invest in what might be called the ‘Art Market 2.0’, even if it means by-passing galleries, lots of artists also want to take advantage of the art market’s digital transformation, and the auction houses appear keen to join in the ‘disruptive’ process,” added Artmarket.

Further reading: Sotheby’s scouts the NFT metaverse as Christie’s debuts in ETH

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