Artnet Offers Focuses on the Print Market
to Find a Leading Indicator for the Art Market
Until the extraordinary events surrounding the world financial markets resolve themselves, it will be hard to get a sense of where the art market goes. Nonetheless, Artnet offers two very interesting metrics. The first is print prices. They’ve been dropping on some key prints by Picasso and Warhol but that hasn’t cut off all the impressive sales like the one for a Lichtenstein. But this has been happening over the past year and the sample isn’t large enough to control for condition.
Artnet adds some numbers on the overall art market in comparison to 1989. Their numbers put the 2005 art market on par with 1989’s market. Since then the market has risen 50%–again, on an index basis. In the slump of the early 1990s, prices dropped 50%. That doesn’t mean that the market falls to 2005 prices. But it does suggest that a much larger art market than the late 1980s that has achieved a higher price level, will be harder to return to slump levels.
But all of that is speculation, this is an unprecedented event: the first crisis of the integrated world financial system.
Here’s Artnet on the prints and 1989:
Sadly, the evidence is building that we do indeed face an art-market slump. Christie’s and Sotheby’s each held fall print auctions in London last week, and the results are illuminating. Christie’s sold lot total was 55 percent, and Sotheby’s was 60.5 percent — both fairly low numbers.
Artnet print expert Deborah Ripley points out that prices have been sinking for Andy Warhol’s bellwether “hot pink Marilyn” print from 1967, catalog raissoné number 31, which in one year has fallen in price from $229,000 (Nov. 2, 2007) to $193,891 (Apr. 1, 2008) to $87,000 (Oct. 2, 2008). Of course, condition and other factors may play a role. Still, “Warhol print dealers are concerned,” she said with notable understatement.
Another bellwether print in a different market, Pablo Picasso’s 1958 color linocut Buste de femme, d’après Cranach le jeune, has seen a similar dramatic decline, selling for about $190,000 in London last week, compared to a high of $657,000 at the celebrity Nasher sale at Sotheby’s New York last May. “The last time ‘Cranach’ was selling at this level was in the art-market doldrums in the 1990s,” said Ripley.
[ . . . ] As always with art, a few works do exceptionally well, whatever the overall economic situation. At Sotheby’s London print sale on Oct. 2, 2008, for instance, Roy Lichtenstein’s sexy Nude with Blue Hair (1994) sold for £163,250 ($288,969), well above the presale high estimate of £100,000 and a new high for the series.
[ . . . ] According to the Artnet Market Trends Research Group, the art market peaked in 1989 and bottomed out four years later in 1993, with prices falling, on average, a total of 56 percent.
[ . . . ] In 1989, the total lots offered numbered approximately 58,000 (including buy-ins), which generated $3.2 billion in sales. In 2007, 254,000 lots were offered, for total sales of over $10 billion. “Larger markets are harder to move,” noted Kevin Radell, Artnet’s market research specialist. “Our index shows that in 2005, the art market slightly exceeded the 1989 peak. We are now roughly 50 percent higher than the ’89 peak. The market is much broader.”
Art Market Watch (Artnet)