Christie’s CEO Steven Murphy makes a couple of interesting claims in this WSJ interview. To begin with, he suggests that the art market is no longer cyclical citing a secular trend driven by a generational influx of buyers whose bank accounts are fed by global trend toward asset concentration:
Art sales remain healthy because the ranks of buyers are increasing, Mr. Murphy said. More people are interested in collecting, while existing collectors continue to buy. Last year, one quarter of Christie’s buyers were new clients, almost half of them from Europe and the U.S.
“I don’t think it’s investors who are shifting to art as an asset class,” he said. “These are people in their 40s and 50s who have come into wealth and are looking to collect.”
Positioning Christie’s to take advantage of this trend has the auction house moving substantially away from its roots as an auctioneer and toward another model:
Mr. Murphy said the company increased its private sales last year by 50% and hopes to grow them this year by 20%. Private sales are primed for growth, he said, because Christie’s draws on its base of collectors. “Our clients were already selling privately and spending elsewhere,” he said. “Now, we’re getting into it.” […]
This will become more important, he said, as sales of art priced under $1 million increasingly migrate online.