The spectacular Contemporary Art sales in New York, where $754 million worth of art works traded hands, were another confirmation that art remains part of the “new normal” of low interest rates and global growth outside the United States.
Although the evening sale totals increased by 37.5% from May to November, helped by the return of a few significant lots that sold above the $10 million mark, the day sales tell a broader story of the Contemporary art market.
The New York Contemporary Day sales have remarkably consistent numbers with gradual shifts in value and lots sold that seem to track a much broader art market than the evening sales.
Last week’s strong day sales posted very similar numbers to the Spring’s sales. Total volume in the day sales was $121 million in May and $122.6 million in November.
The May sales had 800 lots find buyers and the November sales had 831 lots succeed. The average price for the day sales was slightly higher in May (at $151,318) than in November (at $147,572) but hardly a significant difference.
Where the Evening sales were well above the 2006 levels in volume. The day sales were below those earlier levels in overall volume but slightly above in average price. The most interesting feature of the day sale market is the fact that from 2007 to mid-2008 there was a dramatic rise in the average price of day sale works. This period is generally recognized as the height of a credit-bubble driven art boom. After the freezing of credit markets in the Fall of 2008, volumes and average prices dropped significantly as did the number of works sold during these sales.
In terms of the number of lots sold during the Contemporary day sales, we have returned to the level of Spring 2008 where just above 800 lots were purchased. The average price last week, however, was 40% below the bubble peak of Spring 2008.
At the broadest measure of the Contemporary market, supported by low interest rates and global fears of inflation, there seems to be a consolidation at the this 40% decline from the all-time highs. This should be seen as good news especially within the context of average prices having moved above the median level for the last five years for both sales cycles in 2010.
Even with the extreme pressures of the boom and bust, the Contemporary market is framed by remarkably similar results for both 2006 and 2010.