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The press covering the art market has become dangerously fixated on the market's health. Every story obsesses over the drop in sales volume while the surrounding economies continue to heal from a decade of macro-economic turmoil. The February sales in London are unlikely to give those outside of the art market a definitive statement on the market's future prospects. Last night's sales of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist art in London, nonetheless, may start putting that question behind us.
Ermanno Rivetti at The Art Newspaper gathered the numbers and demonstrated that the trend line isn't always down:
The mood was high at Christie’s last night after the total haul for the evening’s Impressionist & Modern and Surreal auctions—£136.9m with fees and a high combined sell through rate of 92%—showed a 45% increase on results this time last year.
That doesn't mean the market always goes up, either. The current fixation among journalists is indulging in schadenfreude over Dimitry Rybolovlev's losses. In the US, Rybolovlev is increasingly brought up with questions about his ties to US President Donald Trump and the nature of his business transactions with real estate developer. At some point, that notoriety may finally push down the interest in his having been taken advantage of by his sometime art advisor, Yves Bouvier.
Furthermore, one would expect the intense interest in Rybolovlev's $100+m in losses to be trotted out as a signal of the art market's softness. One can almost write the headlines in one's head: Art sales off by 40%; Rybolovlev loses 74% on his masterpiece! But that didn't happen. The press and the art market seem to have cordoned off the Bouvier-Rybolovlev scandal into its own somewhat airless universe.
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