London's sales were dominated by guarantees and a few big lots. Does that mean the market is running out of steam or just treading water while it regains its strength?
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
The most significant message from the London Contemporary art sales held earlier this month is that the market continues to be heavily managed but tempered. The sales results, which we will delve into later this week for AMMpro subscribers, are down from the previous year. But the question is why. There are several explanations floating around: a new strategy, a different mix of material on offer and even the supposed shadow of Brexit looming over this sales cycle.
These were all offered as good reasons to ignore the lower overall value of the sales but we could add another conjecture. The market works in cycles where sales either raise expectations for future sales or cause a cautionary pullback against perceived weakness. Auctions, by their very nature as price-seeking events, are rarely static or consistent. The last three years in the art market, especially the Contemporary art market, have seen rising totals after a sharp drop in 2016. London’s Winter sales totals might just be the sort of regular retrenchment the market needs as a self-correction after two years of momentum gained.
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