The Frieze auctions start tomorrow with Sotheby’s, followed by Phillips de Pury on Saturday, Christie’s on Sunday and the Italian sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s on Monday. So let’s recap what the London Contemporary art market has done. The Damien Hirst sale last month capped extraordinary growth over a four-year period. The extraordinary success of the Hirst sale, which will most likely eclipse the totals from the Frieze auctions. The size of the Hirst sale also skews the totals in that the day sale did substantially more business than the evening sale. Otherwise, a trend toward the most expensive lots would be more pronounced. (After the Frieze sales, we’ll have a look at the numbers for 2008 with and without Hirst.)
These numbers reflect an expanding market for Contemporary art but also the growing importance of London as a sales center. Because the Hirst sale had such an abnormal average price–even for the artist–we’ve charted the average price for London Contemporary sales from 2005-2007. Even so, the growth shows plenty of room for retracement. It’s important to remember that 2005 was not a down year in the art market, it was simply the first year in cycle of extraordinary growth that began in 2003.