Bendor Grosvenor is having none of the Old Master dealer’s complaints that dwindling supplies of good work and a fading collector base is killing their market. The Art Newspaper asked the scholar and art hunter why Old Master auctions are gaining strength but dealers remain pessimistic on the eve of their most important fair of the year:
He puts the blame for its supposed decline on the dealers and the ease with which collectors can access prices online. “The old retail-style operation, which is how many of the ‘established’ dealers began, is finished,” he says.
Dealers can no longer buy a work at auction, then turn around and sell it with a nice mark-up. “Within 30 seconds, a potential buyer can walk out of your gallery and find out what you paid for a picture and often won’t come back,” he says. “The new collectors—for they indeed exist—aren’t going into those upstairs galleries you have to press a buzzer to get into, or visiting faraway Maastricht or browsing dealers’ websites to buy art any more. Like it or not, to these collectors, direct buying at auction offers an excitement and a belief that what one is buying is good value, and very few dealers can compete with that.”
Beddington agrees that online price databases make it more difficult to flip paintings. “I almost never buy something correctly catalogued in a major auction, because I know the first thing my client is going to do is tell me how much I paid for it. When I go to Maastricht, I try to make it so that nobody coming on my stand recognises anything,” he says.
Old Master dealers feel the pressure (The Art Newspaper)