The deals everyone is eagerly looking for won't appear until the bargain hunters go away.
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.)
Last Friday, as the financial effects of the global coronavirus quarantine were only beginning to be felt, Bloomberg ran a story suggesting art owners were seeking deals to raise cash. Further reporting suggests the mood in the art market is quite different. With the world’s economy still early in the financial cycle that will follow the global quarantines and their attendant dislocation of everyday economic activity, it makes sense that those with access to substantial cash reserves would view the coming months as a potential opportunity. What seems to have happened on Bloomberg was that buyers hoping to come across distressed art assets were projecting those ambitions to reporters.
Our quick listening tour of dealers, auction house personnel and art finance firms suggests there remain more buyers than sellers in the art market. That doesn’t necessarily mean the market for art will show strong sales. When buyers are eager for bargains and sellers are suspicious of letting work go too cheaply, the result can be a market standoff. It will take an outside economic event to make one side blink. The coronavirus quarantine may be that exogenous shock but claims that art holders are panicking already may be more wishful thinking than fact. (Those claims also seem to run counter to the way collectors behave when they need to raise cash. But we’ll get to that below.)
According to Bloomberg on March 20th, bond king and museum donor Jeffrey Gundlach claimed he was fielding “panic offers” on art by Monet, Renoir and Hopper. Corresponding with Bloomberg’s art market reporter by email, Gundlach suggested he was being offered a substantial amount of art including works ranging from “Impressionists Gustave Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro to contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer, Anish Kapoor and Richard Prince.”
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