As the Impressionist and Modern previews begin in New York this weekend, Colin Gleadell reminds us of the bifurcation in the art market that is both temporal and geographical. Contemporary art generates greater sale volumes in New York now but London is still a hot bed of Impressionist and Modern transactions:
In London, the swing to contemporary has not happened because there is not the same massive input of American abstract expressionist and pop art. Here, the Impressionist sales, with their strong contingent of Russian, Middle Eastern and Asian buyers, still rule the roost and even outstripped New York earlier this year for the first time.
The different contrast between the two markets in New York is clearest at the top end, where only one earlier work, a still life of apples on a table by Cézanne, comparable to any of his highest-selling still-life paintings, is estimated at $25 million. In the contemporary sales there are seven $25 million plus paintings including works by Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Barnett Newman, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jackson Pollock and Roy Lichtenstein. […]
At the same time, however, charts compiled by market analyst Robin Duthy show that while prices at the top end of the market continue to rise, the middle and lower orders have seen falls. The shadow of the Japanese speculative bubble of the late Eighties still lingers. A radiant, symbolist still life by Odilon Redon at Christie’s, estimated at $500,000, sold for nearly double that amount in 1990. A reclining nude by Japanese favourite, Renoir, cost $2.3 million back in 1989, and is now estimated at $800,000. While prices remain this subdued, supply will continue to be a problem.