Last year, the good folks at Artnet produced data on the Warhol market for us. They were kind enough to provide us with an update from their database. The results are striking. Total sales of Warhol paintings dropped by 74% between 2015 and 2016.
There’s been a fair bit of attention paid to the fact that the auction market overall has been down 40-50% in the same period. Not only did Warhol stop acting as a motor of the art market; his sales have consistently driven the Contemporary market higher over the last decade and a half; but his market has become a significant absence.
(There’s a more detailed look at these numbers for AMMpro subscribers, below, but for those who simply want to look at this graph, above, the information is pretty clear.) Warhol sales punctuate what may have been a major market pause.
For the sake of clarity, we broke down the sales into two periods, the run-up of the first Contemporary market boom and the post-credit crisis tangible asset boom. Looking at Warhol 2000-2009, the average yearly sales volume was $124.9m. As the chart, above, illustrates, much of that volume was concentrated in 2006-2008 (with the final year truncated by the global financial crisis.) During the marjority of those years, the total sales volume was well below the average of the entire period.
The second period presents a very different market for Warhol. From 2010 t0 2016, the average yearly sales volume was $333.8m. Although 2014 and 2015 had substantially higher sales, and reflected a bit of a boom mentality as well, yearly sales were much more in line with the average.
The chart for the second period suggests a strong market and a fairly mature market. Talking to buyers, there doesn’t seem to be an absence of demand for Warhol’s works. Much of the market constraint seems to be on the supply side. Nonetheless, the drop off of 74% is dramatic. What that fall indicates, doesn’t seem discernible at this particular moment.
To illustrate just how striking this Warhol sellers’ strike has been, we created a 3-year moving average for the total sales volume. The moving average smooths out volatility. In this case, it further illustrates just the absence of Warhol sales in 2016.
The panic of 2009 is the only comparable drop from the 3yr moving average. But there is no similar global financial threat today.