Artinfo’s Shane Ferro looks at sales in the so-called middle market of $100k to $1m and finds an “auction market that is resting on stilts — soaring only because of a few dozen trophy purchases.”
ARTINFO’s analysis of sales above $100,000 across five different fine art categories in our BASI database — Old Masters, Latin American art, American art, Impressionist and modern art, and contemporary art — suggests that the middle market, which we defined as sales between $100,000 and $1 million, is actually down significantly from the spring of 2011. Despite reports of the art market’s “Scream”-ing success, both mean and median prices, as well as the number of lots sold in that price range, are at or below 2010 figures after experiencing a pop in 2011.
At the high end of the market (lots above $1 million), median prices in the five categories have grown an average of 21 percent since spring of last year. Median prices for middle market lots, on the other hand, are down an average of 10.5 percent in the same period.
The real question is whether Artinfo has captured the middle market or the bottom end of the market. Yes, calling $100,000 to $1m the bottom end seems a bit much but it feels as though the middle part of the auction market is in the $1 to $5m range.