Judith Benhamou scores with another great interview. This time she spoke to Christie’s Brett Gorvy who remarks that among the buyers who can spend as much as $100m the bulk are persons who were unknown to the auction house as little as three years ago.
That may sound shocking but remember two things. The first is that we are living through a period of rapid wealth accumulation and the emergence of many new fortunes both in the West and among the emerging markets. In 2000, Forbes magazine listed 470 billionaires in the world; in 2013, that number was 1470. And the turnover among the list of the 400 wealthiest persons in America has been as high as 60% over the ten-year period from the 1990 to 2000.
Secondly, you will note that Gorvy talks about how quickly the new collectors find their confidence jumping orders of magnitude in their bidding and purchases from season to season. These comments are very similar to what was said about new collectors who came into the market in 2005-2007.
These new collectors do they have advisors?
BG: No. The advisors are experts at Christie’s. A number of these new bidders are Asian and they have an extraordinary thirst for learning. When Bacon was on sale with an estimate of $ 85 million, our Asian representative was in line with three bidders who were not active for more than two years. They learn very quickly. They started with the desire to invest $ 3 million in May and $ 30 million in June in London, and now they are willing to spend $ 100 million. These are very smart people who made their money in one sector and worked hard for it.
What are they looking for?
BG: The market is oriented toward masterpieces. If, in May, you had shown these people the triptych by Francis Bacon, they would not have known who he was. What they want to know is what are the best works that you have in your sales. American collectors, themselves, buy long and try to complete sets. In our sale, three lots among seventy will interest them, while the new Asian collectors, Russian or Middle East are potentially interested in everything.