Colin Gleadell does his usual peerless job of cutting through the confusion and getting to the heart of what’s going on in the art market. His reading of London’s Old Master sales. Gleadell points out in the Telegraph the absurdly lopsided results where “just four lots . . . out of the 1,000-plus works on offer,” made up the bulk of the sales’ success, “accounting for two thirds of the proceeds.” What explains this top-heavy market? For one, there’s seller restraint keeping good works off the market. But something more important is going on here. The evaporation of credit is pinching the dealer-heavy Old Master market.
the trade, which usually mops up a lot of these sales, has less cash to spend. On top of that, credit terms for buyers have become stricter. Christie’s will not release goods to even its best clients, unless they have been paid for. London dealer Johnny Van Haeften is usually one of the biggest buyers of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, but he felt that there weren’t many good pictures on offer, and was less active than usual. His gallery had a good week, selling a Jan Lievens portrait for £3.6 million, as well as flower paintings by Jan Davidsz de Heem and Jan Brueghel for £2 million and £2.5 million respectively. But at Christie’s, he bought only two works, and at Sotheby’s, just one, having watched a rare and appealing portrait of a working girl holding a Brazilian basket of plums by the Dutch classical artist Caesar Boëtius van Everdingen soar above its £50,000 estimate, and above his £450,000 bid, before selling for a record £1.2 million.
Art Market: Top-Heavy Week for Old Masters (Telegraph)