Katrina Brooker’s Newsweek story on the battle between Sotheby’s and Christie’s has some other nice illustrations of themes in the current art market. One of the biggest—and least discussed—is the tendency for new buyers to enter the market near the very top. This trend of rapid entry isn’t entirely new—in 2006 & 2007—there were many stories of new buyers ascending the value ladder quickly. It’s happening again on an even broader geographic scale than before.
How long will these new buyers stay in the market? Hong Gyu Shin (right) was widely quoted and identified as an underbidder on the $142m Bacon triptych. Although he owns a small gallery in Manhattan, his interviews suggest that he has been collecting art for only four years.
Auctioneers, art dealers, and collectors tell stories of new buyers who scoop up four or five items in a single auction, spending tens of millions of dollars. A Brazilian man who had never bought a major work of art recently plunked down $67 million at his first auction. An Asian collector bought one item for $1 million last spring, then jumped to a $10 million work in the summer sales, and most recently bought something for $30 million. During the sale of a Mark Rothko painting last spring, there were 10 bidders still in the running at the $50 million mark, and they pushed the price of that canvas to $86 million. This month, at the Christie’s Impressionist and Modern sale, Chinese tycoon Wang Jianlin bid ferociously for a painting of Picasso’s children, Claude et Paloma – ratcheting up the bidding by $1 million increments. He finally won his prize for $28.2 million – more than double its $9 million to $12 million estimate.