SEOUL, Dec. 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's market for fine art shrank 9.3 percent last year from a year earlier, registering the first decline in five years, data showed Tuesday.
The data by the Korea Arts Management Service showed that the total value of transactions of artwork came to 448.2 billion won (US$387.2 million) in 2018, compared with 494.2 billion won in 2017.
It marked the first yearly fall since 2014, when the transaction volume reached 349.6 billion won.
The 2018 decline is mainly due to a steep fall in sales by local art galleries, the biggest channel for transactions of art pieces.
Combined sales by South Korean art galleries shrank 20.1 percent on-year to 195.4 billion won last year, the first figure below the 200 billion-won level since 2013, the data showed.
As of 2018, a total of 460 art galleries were in operation in South Korea, up from 455 the previous year.
Auction houses or art fairs fared better than art galleries, with combined sales by auction houses growing 1.2 percent on-year to 151.1 billion won in 2018.
The number of art fairs also rose to 54 last year from 49 the previous year, while sales by art fairs registered a 15 percent year-on-year growth to 73.4 billion won in 2018.
Despite the overall decline in the value of art transactions in 2018, the number of art pieces that changed hands grew 10.2 percent to 39,368, compared to 35,712 in 2017, putting the average price of an art piece at 11.4 million won last year, according to the data.
The year 2018 saw a total of 684 fee-charging art exhibitions take place in South Korea, which drew a total of 9.9 million visitors, it showed. Including them, there were a total of 2,924 art exhibitions here last year.
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