Late last year, there was a record price achieved at Sotheby’s for a work by Hans Arp—$3.86m. That sale would give you the impression that the Arp market is on the upswing after recent shows at New York’s Blain Di Donna Gallery and a current London show at Hauser & Wirth matching the artist’s work with that of Franz West.
If you’re watching the day and evening sales these last few auction cycles you would have noticed what seemed like an increase in activity for Arp. More works were on the block and more seemed to be selling at prices above the estimates. Katherine Markley at Artnet kindly provided us with data and charts from their artist’s index report for Arp which shows some interesting peaks and valleys in his market.
It turns out that Hans Arp had a big year in 2009 that has reset his market but not advanced it. The last time something similar happened, it was 2003, when the artist’s brother sold a large collection of his work in Paris, the market received a major jolt. As you can see in the chart above, the Paris sale not only jumped his annual auction volume from $1.7m in 2002 to more than $15m in 2003. The sale was so strong, it upset the usual balance of top ten works accounting for almost all of the sales value.
In 2003, Artnet’s data shows, strong prices went well down the top ten works and into the list below. Such a singular event would not be sustainable year after year but the Arp market did consolidate higher in the years between 2004 and 2006 before breaking out again during the boom year of 2007 where the entire art market seemed to rise from its moorings.
Even the credit crisis was not able to halt Arp’s rise in market stature. After two brief years of consolidation, Arp’s market peaked again in 2011. Despite that slight pullback, the new price level seems fairly consistent. But, as the chart below shows, sellers have not become overly aggressive. Works continue to sell well above the average estimates.