Global art sales hit a new record high of US$12.05 billion last year, with China keeping its spot as the top buyer, a leading art market data firm said on Wednesday.
France-based Artprice said sales of artworks around the globe – which include paintings, sculptures and photographic prints – grew 13 per cent last year.
The market rebounded after a 9 per cent drop in 2012 that was due mainly to a decrease in sales in China.
But China remained the top art buyer for the fourth year running last year, accounting for US$4.078 billion in sales, Artprice said.
It was followed closely by the United States, which accounted for US$4.016 billion of sales, up 20 per cent from 2012.
“These two powers alone account for two-thirds of the art market,” said Artprice CEO Thierry Ehrmann.
Britain was in third position but far behind, accounting for US$2.11 billion worth of sales. France was fourth with US$549 million in sales, followed by Germany and Switzerland.
Ehrmann said growth in the art market continued to rely on the works of a small number of popular artists selling at high prices.
“Half of the revenues from last year were based on only 100 artists and 25,000 lots,” Artprice said.
A new world record for the most expensive piece of art auctioned was reached in November when a triptych by British painter Francis Bacon titled Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold for US$142.4 million at Christie’s in New York.
New York is the “epicentre” of top-level sales, Artprice said, accounting for 39 of the 50 best auctions last year.
With US$3.55 billion in sales, Christie’s beat out rival  Sotheby’s, with US$3.10 billion, for the spot of top auction house.
Ehrmann said he expected this year to be another record year as the art market cements its place as a “true safe haven” for investors.