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The New York Contemporary art sales made just a bit more than $1bn combined last month. So, even if the auction houses had not continued to hold all of the New York May sales in a single week, the Contemporary art sales would still have been a gigaweek. Does it matter? Probably not. There has been a great deal of talk in the press about the art market being in a slump based upon the dubious benchmark of the market's absolute peak in 2014.
You can see from the chart above the two years where the Spring sales of Contemporary were effectively identical and loomed 35% higher in total value than last month's sales. But you can also see that matching sale values from year to year has been effectively unheard of. For many reasons, not to mention the art's heterodox qualities (that means few objects that are sold are alike,) sales rarely match up from year to year. More to the point for those looking to normalize art sales levels, those peak years were the culmination of five previous years of rapidly rising art values.
Even a passing familiarity with economic and historical events will explain why that same period was anything but normal. The slumping art sales of 2016 were still reasonably close to the peak years of 2007 and 2008. But now that the sales have recovered, we can also see some similarities to the previous pullback.
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