Colin Gleadell tracked the Italian sales over the last few years. He points out that sales volume doubled from 2013 to 2015. In 2010, the Italian Modern and Contemporary art auctions took in a figure near £36m, by last year that number had almost tripled to £84m.
This week there are just as many Italian lots as there were last year, but fewer of high value, and the pre-sale estimate is down 24 per cent from last year at £45 million.
Far more important to the overall market and its direction, the mix of artists is shifting. Last year was the peak of the Fontana market with 24 works across all three houses. That one artist accounted for more than 40% of the Italian sale total.
Fontana is something of the European Warhol in the sense that his market includes a large number of similar but immediately recognizable works. The slash paintings, in particular, provide market liquidity and ubiquity.
Like Warhol, and the market for other artists with large outputs, sales volumes will fluctuate according to broader dyamics both internal to art market taste and externally driven by the global economy. With that in mind, it is striking that Gleadell cites this:
there are only 13 Fontanas this year, with a combined estimate of £5.2 million.
On the positive side, Gleadell points to a number of Italian-focused galleries that have opened in London over the last few years that are now steering collectors to lesser known artists whose work might have the dual impact of freshness and price points that seem like a refreshing bargain.