Tom Johansmeyer at Luxist pored through some detailed analysis of the Parisian art market generated by Artprice.com and agrees with their conclusions: Paris is holding up well in the art downturn:
For the first quarter, art prices in France came down only 5 percent, a level that’s been maintained through the rest of the year, so far. Christie’s bears much of the responsibility for this success, with some solid auctions this year, though Sotheby’s has helped, as well, with a Contemporary Art auction that moved 95.2 percent of the lots offered. Also, Parisian auctions aren’t as up-market as those in London and New York, which has muted the effects of the global financial crisis.
This last point bears some examination. Artprice suggests that Paris’s lower lot value has meant fewer speculators came into that market. That’s silly. High prices are the result of exhuberant collectors not market speculators. Otherwise we would have to call all of the buyers in the YSL/Bergé sale speculators since they paid exhorbitant prices. Does anyone seriously think that sale was driven by market speculation?
In fact, the parisian market may be more dominated by professional dealers–who are by definition speculators–than the more global sales centers in London and New York.
The other possibility is that Parisian sales concentrate on artists and art work that has less global name recognition and appeal. Prices remain at their previous level becuase the French collecting base remains intact–and still interested in acquiring.