The Year in Asia: Looking Back on the Art Scene in 2023 and 5 Trends for 2024

While the global art market appears to be suffering general malaise amid complex geopolitical conflicts, inflation, and high interest rates, Asia seems to be on a markedly different track.

Last year saw a 14 percent year-on-year decline in sales across mainland China and Hong Kong, according to the most recent Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report. Though sales in the region were still 13 percent above 2020 at $11.2 billion, it was the second lowest total since 2009 and the report found that auction sales dipped in Japan, South Korea, and other smaller markets internationally in 2022.

Given that, it was altogether surprising when market indicators this year revealed a wholly different shift for the wildly diverse Asia region.

In November, the 2023 Survey of Global Collection by Art Basel and UBS reported that, in the first half of this year, collectors from mainland China had the highest median expenditure of all collectors, at $241,000. That figure was a sharp increase over the previous two years. Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s homegrown art fair Art Jakarta rolled out a well-attended edition at its new venue and time slot from November 17 to 19, while Art Fair Philippines returned for its tenth edition in February with 63 exhibitors, an increase from 46 last year. The country’s leading gallery, SILVERLENS, expanded with an outpost in New York last July.

It is safe to say that the regional art market has been buoyed by a sense of confidence, hunger for disruption, and deep pockets. It was exactly this atmosphere in 2021 that allowed NFTs and related technologies to become so popular in various parts of Asia beginning, with young tech entrepreneurs making their first forays into the art market, changing the very ethos of buying art in the region, for better or worse.

While techno-optimism remains especially prevalent in major capitals like Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore, such a mindset tends to engender wilful ignorance towards the various pressures floating in the background, such as growing censorship and social inequities, geopolitical conflicts, and the looming climate crisis. These issues were clearly showing amidst ambitious efforts to expand or innovate this year.

To that end, here are five major trends that stood out in Asia’s art market and institutional landscape in 2023.  

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