The chart above shows the long-term totals for Contemporary art sold in New York over the last five years. You can see the pronounced jump in 2007 and the first half of 2008 that represents the contemporary art bubble in all it’s glory. Behind the paywall, we do a more detailed analysis of auction totals and where we stand against the “new normal” in art sales.
[private_subscriber][private_bundle] Looking at the last five years in Contemporary art sales in New York we can see some interesting patterns. First, over the entire life of that market for five years the average total sale for all three houses including day and evening sales has been approximately $500m. The median sale during those years was $396m. The difference gives one a greater sense of the extent of the bubble.
As time goes on, it will be easier to let go of comparisons between current sales levels and those from the bubble years. Let’s follow the leading financial thinkers and call this the “new normal,” a re-calibration of expectations and a re-definition of success. To do a better job of resetting expectations, let’s look at what the last few years would have looked like without the bubble years. Removing 2007 and the Spring of 2008 from the totals and the numbers change significantly. The average sale falls to $322m but the median figure comes much closer at $308m.
Wouldn’t you know it, that $308m figure comes from this autumn’s cycle of Contemporary art sales. That means prices have regained a level that is close to an equilibrium point for the non-bubble year sales. In other words, while the rest of the economy has retreated significantly from pre-bubble levels, the art market is showing extraordinary strength by returning to mid-2005 levels.