As the art market ebbs, one searches places like the market for prints to get a better sense of its direction. Deborah Ripley is the peerless guide to the prints market and her work appears at Artnet.com. This report should be mandatory reading. So we’ll only give you the headline:
Christie’s 228-lot sale on Apr. 28 was its smallest since the art-market crash of 1989. Sotheby’s two-day auction on Apr. 30 and May 1 featured 346 lots, substantially fewer than the 570 works offered six months ago.
The sale results also show how much the market has shifted. Last October, Sotheby’s sale totaled $8,325,317, but the spring results were little over half that, $4,575,315. At Christie’s, the October total was $8,165,663, while this slim spring sale netted a mere $2,958,375, a drop of 64 percent. [ . . . ]
Ripley points out that Christie’s took a very different strategy of insisting on very conservative estimates and turning away consignors who wanted to be more aggressive. Their sale total was dramatically off but the house achieved a 94% sell-through rate.
In the “we try harder” department, a smaller New York auction house, Swann Galleries, had its print sale on Apr. 30, and offered more lots (496) than either Christie’s or Sotheby’s. Still more remarkable was the sale’s consistent performance — the auction totaled $1,485,740, only a slight drop from the firm’s total of $1,546,272 in October 2008.
Deborah Ripley’s Print Market Report (Artnet)