AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The global art market surpassed its pre-recession peak to reach 51 billion euros ($53.93 billion) in 2014, according to a report by the European Fine Art Foundation, with the market helped by growing numbers of high net-worth individuals.
The Maastricht, Netherlands-based foundation, which puts on the annual European Fine Arts Fair, one of the world's largest, said a 7 percent year-on-year increase had pushed the market above its 2007 level of 48 billion euros.
But while total value reached a new peak, the number of transactions was down from its 2007 level. The bulk of the value came from large sales.
About 1,530 lots worth more than 1 million euros were sold in 2014, including 96 worth more than 10 million euros. While they accounted for only 0.5 percent of all the transactions, they provided almost half the total value of the market.
"It continues to be a highly polarized market, with a relatively small number of artists, buyers and sellers accounting for a large share of value," said Clare McAndrew, the economist who compiles the report.
There were some 13.7 million high net-worth individuals in the world at the end of 2013, up 15 percent on the year before, with total wealth of $53 trillion, according to the report.
At the bottom end of the market, a growing number of low-value transactions took place online. Total internet-based sales of art and antiques were estimated to have reached 3.3 billion euros in value in 2014.
The United States accounted for 39 percent of global art sales, making it the largest art market in the world, followed by China and Britain, which each accounted for 22 percent of sales.
The largest segment of the global art market was the post-war and contemporary market, accounting for 48 percent of all fine art auction sales. Modern art, by artists born between 1875 and 1910, accounted for 28 percent of the total.
Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Larry King