Howard Rehs of Rehs Galleries offers this comment on the Doha sale of Orientalist paintings. Which prompts some worthwhile debate.
Rehs points out that the Doha sale was no different from the Winter and Fall Orientalist sales. That is to say uneven with strong prices for some works and many that failed to find buyers. The market churn (recently purchased works placed back on the market at higher estimates) is especially strong in this field.
It’s a trend that worries Rehs who feels, “if the salerooms continue to offer recently sold works at high estimates they are going to make this an even longer recovery for the general art market. Smaller sales, filled with good quality works in all price levels, will result in higher sell through rates and will go a long way to restore confidence.”
To support this view, Rehs offers these interesting numbers (emphasis ours):
According to the posted results, of the 78 lots offered only 37 found buyers, leaving 41 unsold … that is a 52.56% BI rate — not a very strong showing. In addition, 50 were sold within the last 2 years and 29 of those were among the BIs.
But it’s not all gloom from Rehs, he sees the positive side. Though it does raise another interesting question about Orientalist works. Is there a geographic arbitrage taking place here with works that sold recently in Europe being essentially fresh to the Gulf States’ market? That would seem hard to imagine with the strong representation of Middle Eastern buyers in European and North American sales. But not out of the question. Here’s Rehs’s final thought:
The Doha sale offered Orientalist paintings to an Orientalist group of buyers … and those that found a work of interest bid. Great works will always find a buyer and the Ernst paintings were top notch examples … at least from the photos. The work that really shows how the overall market has done is the Fabio Fabbi — that sold in 2002 for $47,800 … 7 years late $320,500.