Souren Melikian thinks the Old Master market has lost its luster. The sales are getting thinner and the auction houses are padding them with drawings. He even sees the Getty’s Turner purchase as a sign of weakness in the market. After all, they were willing to pay more there just wasn’t another bidder:
The likelihood of another Turner of remotely comparable importance tumbling into the market in the near future is slim. While Wednesday’s picture cannot really compare with the greatest Turners in which the visible world is reduced to luminous impressions, now in the two London museums, a few professionals seemed disappointed that it had not gone for even more.
Awareness of a unique opportunity regarding the work of the greatest British painter of all times and of the urgency of acting there and then was evidently a factor in the wise decision of the Los Angeles museum’s board of trustees to go all out, despite the current mood favoring austerity and financial restraint.
If confirmation was needed that major paintings by great masters of the European past are vanishing, Sotheby’s sale provided sad evidence to that effect. So few Old Masters now tumble onto the market that both Sotheby’s and Christie’s feel the need to hold combined sales of Old Masters and 19th century works in order to fill their catalogs with enough paintings. In addition, they pad them by throwing in drawings.