A running theme of the last several years in the art market has been to emphasize the number of new buyers who are not collectors but speculative flippers. The first big story was an excellent piece by Katya Kazakina in Bloomberg revealing the tendency. The New York Times followed later with a detailed analysis that showed the increase in art flipping is no greater than the overall increase in art that is sold. In other words, the same proportion of art is being flipped, there’s just a lot more art being sold.
Keep that in mind when you read today’s Bloomberg story stirring the pot about art flipping. Pay particular attention to the numbers in this paragraph:
Among the higher-priced works — those fetching $1.5 million or more — 13 had changed hands at least once before in the previous three years, according to New York-based Skate’s Art Market Research. That’s an increase of 54 percent from a year ago. In the two weeks of May auctions, 221 works overall sold for more than $1.5 million, Skate’s said. In May 2007, the previous art market peak, only four such trades took place, according to Skate’s
The paragraph isn’t entirely clear. Bloomberg seems to be saying that in 2007 there were only 4 repeat sales in the $1.5m and above range. Last month, there were 13 such sales. That’s triple the number of repeat sales but still only a handful of works, less than 6%. Given the overall rise in the market and substantial increase in the number of works valued above $1.5m, this hardly seems like cause for alarm.
Given the very small sample size (13 works) and the amped up use of guarantees this auction cycle, one has to ask how many of the handful of works that showed the increase in flipping were brought to market by the auction house specialists, not the collectors themselves?
Art Flippers Target Masterpieces as French Painting Gains 220% (Bloomberg Business)