From London to Hong Kong, certain art works are selling at far above previous prices.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 London auctions coinciding with the Frieze Art Fair seemed to telegraph a market focusing more on quality over quantity: sales volume was down along with third-party guarantees but competition (and prices) for specific works of art was strong. At all three houses, headline sales totals were way down even as good feelings pervaded the after-sale conversations. Then there was the surprise, out-of-register £9.9m sale at Sotheby’s of Banksy’s Devolved Parliament which seemed to be priced based upon the short-term political climate (or perhaps upon the hope that the painting would come to be seen as a cultural touchstone in the aftermath of a deeply contentious Brexit.) Whatever the motivation behind the scrum bidders who pursued the work, it is rare to see a single work by an artist suddenly sell for a huge multiple of the artist’s previous record price. In Banksy’s case, the sale was five times the pre-sale high estimate for the work and the previous record set for the artist which was set during the pre-financial crisis euphoria of an earlier and substantially different art market. Just a few days later and on the opposite side of the world, Sotheby’s was holding its Fall cycle of sales in Hong Kong with the added complication of the city-state’s continuing pro-democracy protests. In an environment what would normally be considered less than conducive for a luxury art auction, Sotheby’s was able to do good business.
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