New report from UBS: The Role of Cities in the US Art Ecosystem

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New report from UBS: The Role of Cities in the US Art Ecosystem
New York has the highest number of art institutions and exhibitions and remained HNW collectors’ top choice to attend art exhibitions and art-related events in 2021.

NEW YORK, NY.- UBS publish today the report The Role of Cities in the US Art Ecosystem, authored by renowned cultural economist Dr. Clare McAndrew with data from research-based tech company Wondeur AI. The report analyses data on the quantity and content of the exhibition programs of art institutions across the US, including commercial galleries and museums, revealing insights on their risk preferences for new emerging artists and the impact they can have on their subsequent careers. It focuses on the influence of these institutions on the cultural infrastructure of five key cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami. The research is based on a comprehensive study of the exhibition history of 4,150 art institutions in the US that were active in exhibiting over 38,000 artists born after 1900 from 2017 to 2021, compiled by Wondeur AI. The full report is free to download at

The US is the largest center for art sales in the world, accounting for a share of 43% of all sales by value in 2021, or just over $28 billion, according to the The Art Market 2022, Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, (also authored by Arts Economics).

The key findings include:

• Number of institutions: New York had the largest share of active art institutions (including both for and non-profit) at 26% of the US total, followed by Los Angeles at 7% and San Francisco at 4%. New York institutions also hosted the highest number of exhibitions in the period from 2017 to 2021, with a share of 36% of all shows, compared with 9% in Los Angeles, and approximately 4% each in San Francisco, Miami and Chicago. Around half of the 1,300 active commercial galleries in this sample were located in New York (37%), Los Angeles (10%) and San Francisco (5%).

• Collector insight: A survey of 400 high net worth (HNW) collectors by Arts Economics and UBS Investor Watch in 2021 revealed that given the choice of US and global cities, US-based collectors ranked New York as the number one city worldwide to attend exhibitions and art-related events, followed by Miami.

• The focus of gallery programs: The research analyses the exhibition patterns of artists in three categories: “Star artists”, the top 4% of all artists in the Wondeur AI database, “Established artists”, representing the next 12% and “Emerging artists”, the remaining 84%. A large share of galleries (41%) in the US concentrate on mid-career Established artists. These galleries are essential to the health of art ecosystems as they nurture artists at a critical time in their careers and facilitate the transition from Emerging to Star categories. Miami had the highest share of galleries focused on the Established category (61%) of the five cities, followed by Los Angeles (48%). 36% of commercial galleries in the US focused on Emerging artists, with the highest share of the five cities in San Francisco and Chicago (both 39%). While the majority of the value of sales are concentrated at the top end of the market, the report showed that only a minority (23%) of commercial galleries focused on Star artists, with highest shares in New York (34%), Los Angeles and San Francisco (both 29%).

• Gender and representation: The share of female artists in commercial gallery exhibitions in the US was 39% overall, with the lowest share among galleries concentrating on Star artists (32%) and a slightly higher proportion for those focused on Established and Emerging artists (both 41%). Chicago had the highest shares of female artists in gallery exhibitions (43% overall, and close to parity with male artists for those focused on the Emerging category), while the lowest gender diversity was Miami (28% female artists).

• Risk Appetite for Emerging Artists: Risk appetite is a metric developed by Wondeur AI quantifying an institutions’ willingness to show new emerging artists (who started exhibiting after 2010) first before other institutions have. Each city worldwide is assigned a score from 0-100. New York galleries had the highest risk appetite of the five cities (82), while those in Los Angeles were the most risk averse (70) of the five cities. However, Los Angeles museums were much more willing to take risks (with a score of 70), on par with New York. Within the museum sector, the lowest risk appetite for new emerging female artists was in Chicago (33) and the highest again in Los Angeles (72) and New York (73). Notably, Miami stood out as the only city where emerging female artists were more likely to be exhibited for the first time over their male peers in both the museum (51:48) and commercial gallery sectors (79:74), indicating that it could be an important testing ground for some artists that go on to be successful elsewhere.

• Performance of Emerging Artists: The performance of institutions is measured by assessing how much a new emerging artists’ status grows, in terms of their cultural recognition and market position, within a three-year period of being shown at an institution. Each city is assigned a score from 0-100. Museums in New York and Chicago showed the strongest performance across the five cities (at 36 and 34), while in the commercial gallery sector, Los Angeles had the strongest performance (at 30). Male artists performed better than female artists across all cities in the gallery sector, however, this was notably different for museums, where female artists outperformed their male peers in Los Angeles (50:23), New York (42:32) and San Francisco (23:13).

• Risk and Performance of Emerging Artists: Combining both risk appetite and performance, galleries in New York excelled overall with the highest combined rank based on these two scores, which is strong evidence of curatorial quality and innovativeness within the city’s art ecosystem. While galleries in other cities including Los Angeles and Chicago showed higher performance for their emerging artists, they were much more risk averse and less likely to take a chance on showing new artists before other institutions had. New York also scored highest in the museum sector, with Los Angeles a close second, and embracing an equal level of risk when it came to new emerging artists.

Clare McAndrew, Founder, Arts Economics, said: “This research allowed us to look at the structure and make up of US art institutions in some of the country’s key art hubs, looking beyond sales and financial metrics to consider how their choices, risk preferences and behaviors can affect the careers of new artists. The data showed the diversified nature of US galleries in different cities, and their willingness to take risks on showing new Emerging artists for the first time, versus the more conservative approach of museums who often rely more on the previous history of artists’ exhibitions to hedge their curatorial risks. While the major hubs of New York and Los Angeles excelled overall, each city showed unique and interesting strengths and weaknesses. This data provides the first step and impetus for more in-depth future studies of what drives these traits in different cities, and how they may have been created and influenced over time and will continue to develop in the future.”

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