Art Research Technologies is a recently formed company that offers distinctive analytic tools for anticipating value in the art market. As part of their launch, ART will be issuing reports on market categories. Since this information is consonant with Art Market Monitor’s audience interest, we’re offering the reports here as a series of posts. [private_subscriber][private_bundle]You can download the entire ART Report newsletter here.
Every January, Americana Week unfolds in a series of auctions (not to mention a slew of fairs) that inundate the market with a rather unwieldy selection of art objects. The Americana sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and as of last year, Bonhams, offer everything from Delft housewares at under $1,000 to rare folk portraits expected to earn six figures.
With that kind of range, it can be difficult to gauge how Americana is doing as a category, let alone how the many different subcategories that comprise it are performing. However, it is the diversity and depth of the January Americana sales that makes them the perfect subject for this inaugural report, the first of many forthcoming market briefs produced by Art Research Technologies (ART).
Americana Week 2009 left us with a clear lesson: This market will not tolerate pie-in-the-sky estimates, even for exceptional lots like Sotheby’s ill-fated Old Jake weathervane and Christie’s equally doomed Bombé chest. But what else do we know about the state of Americana going into this week’s sales? It is our intention that the following pages of analysis will give insight into where value lies in today’s multitudinous Americana market—and which house offers more of it in 2010.
Last year’s sales suffered from a high incidence of buy-in’s, especially at the top of the market. For the most part, the percentage of lots sold fell to fi ve-year lows (Fig. 1). But those negative results don’t tell the whole story. Fig. 2 is an index of the Americana market that is calculated based on the average prices achieved in the January sales over the past five years. It reveals that although 2009’s results seemed dismal, overall price levels are in fact in a slightly better place than they were in 2005. Of the four important subcategories also indexed on the graph, Silver and Export Art are the only ones to best their 2005 performances. This year, both houses are banking on the stability of these typically low-value categories. Christie’s Edwards Collection is dominated by Export Art and Silver while Sotheby’s is offering two highly estimated Silver lots in its various owner sale as well as a stand alone session of Export Art from the Gordon Collection.