The boom in Modern British art coincident with the sale of David Bowie’s art collection in 2016 seems to have left the New York Times un-impressed. Following up on the offerings at the London Art Fair, Scott Reyburn returns to his obsession with Brexit doom and gloom.
This seems to extend to the view of the Modern British Market. Where Reyburn sees disappointment, we see a year of solid consolidation. Here are Reyburn’s numbers on the Modern British category:
In 2016, Sotheby’s enjoyed a bumper £52.3 million year of Modern British art auctions, thanks to an injection of almost £20 million from the David Bowie sale. But prices like the £797,000 given at the Bowie auction for a 1961 abstract by the St. Ives School painter Peter Lanyon haven’t proved transformative. Last year’s Modern British auctions at Sotheby’s were up just 11 percent on 2016, discounting Bowie. Equivalent auctions at Christie’s were up less than 1 percent.
At Sotheby’s, American buyers have accounted for about 14 percent of those totals since 2015, the auction house said. A few blue-chip names aside, “Mod Brit” remains, by and large, a British taste.
Another way to look at these same numbers is that an 11% increase is a sign of strong market. It may not be a raging market. But Sotheby’s ability to show double-digit year-over-year growth in a category that saw momentum before the Bowie sale is evidence that the auction house is leading the market forward.
To be sure, the fact that 14% of the buyers are Americans is less impressive but hardly a bad sign.
The promise of the Modern British category is that the art fits well with recent trends among collectors and dealers who have been seeking out historically proven artists whose work appears to be under-valued. These artists are establishing stable asset values in a price range that collectors are increasingly interested in. So dealers can offer works that are less risky to acquire but still offer subject matter that is both decorative and in a style that is familiar to global collectors.
As Brexit Looms, London’s Art Dealers Cater to Divided Tastes (The New York Times)