What Does the Latest Auction Cycle Tell Us About the Market’s Direction?
Everybody has an opinion, especially when it comes to the art market. Are the Super-Rich propping up a market that has seen a broader correction or is quality king? Who’s up? Who’s Down? The Wall Street Journal suggests that the market has never diverged before between the top and the middle. But that ignores the fact that the middle can include artists who are out of favor. Someone like Francis Bacon or Richard Prince would have been considered part of the middle during the last phase of price restraint. And by that, we’re referring to 2003-4, not the crash of the early 1990s. A quick survey after the jump:
Charles Dupplin, art expert at Hiscox, said: “The current art-buying scene is a tale of two markets. The big ticket, record-breaking items are still being bought by wealthy individuals, with relatively new entrants to the art investment market, from Russia and Asia, for example, adding to demand. This area of the market is bucking the general economic trend, even if the rise in value does seem to be slowing somewhat. However, the mid-range items up to the £1m mark are suffering, and I suspect some City-based collectors are feeling the crunch.
“Although the full picture won’t be known until later this year, it does seem that the art market is remaining reasonably robust, with some specific segments, such as 19th century European art, even undergoing a form of renaissance.”
Naturally, the auction houses see well-oiled market at work:
“Many bidders exceeded their own limitations,” said an exhausted Tobias Meyer after the sale. “This is a market driven by art lovers.”
“The best thing about this market,” said Brett Gorvy, international co-head of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary department in a post-sale interview, “is that people are making the right choices.”
Behind the scenes, both major auction houses are hustling to find art to suit two diverging audiences. A handful of new Russian and Middle Eastern buyers, flush from a commodities boom, are willing to pay high prices for trophy paintings, yet the majority of collectors and art investors are beginning to cut back and avoid artworks of middling quality. In the long run, this splintering phenomenon could push up prices for an elite group of artists but undercut the overall health of the art market. In past boom-and-bust cycles, art experts say, the middle and the top ends of the art market have risen and fallen in sync. [Emphasis mine.]
Dead Artists Breathe Life into Auctions (Wall Street Journal)
Art is increasingly being seen as a financial asset as well as an object of beauty, experts say, and the fact that some collectors are suffering from the credit crunch means the quality of works on offer improves as they seek to raise cash.
I wouldn’t be surprised if certain parts of the market slow down. There has been talk of the Leipzig school, for instance, and Chinese contemporary art, having recently grown rather overheated in the past couple of years (and for that read overpriced). The art market, like every other market, can be a fickle and volatile place.
Monet Avoids the Crunch (Guardian)