The art market has continued to grow at rates far above other investment sectors. This has created a lucrative return for the major auction houses, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonham’s and Phillips de Pury. Not only has the contemporary art market continued to remain buoyant, in the face of global financial crisis, but some works have actually risen in value by up to 50%, with new growth areas developing every year. Will this trend continue as 2012 draws to a close, or is the art market in for a rocky ride? Artlyst taps into the auction pipeline to see what lies in store over the next few months.
The art market has been an interesting place (in the Confucian sense) since the sub-prime and later the debit crises plunged global financial markets into turmoil in 2008. While many developed countries have struggled to hold onto their former glory, the economies of the BRICS countries (Russia, India, China and South Africa) have been expanding. These shifts in geo-economic power have in turn been reflected in the changing demographic of collectors, no longer dominated by Europe and North America. For example, the Russian elite has become increasingly acquisitive since the collapse of Communism in 1990 (before then, art buying there was almost unheard of). Moreover, China has emerged as the world leader for sales of artworks, surprising everyone not just by its acquisitive capacity but also by its independence. Artprice, one of the leading sources of art market information, says that China now globally ‘accounts for the highest auction results (with 774 auction results above $1 million recorded in 2011 compared with 426 in the USA and 377 in the UK), mostly generated at auctions in Beijing and Hong Kong.’
Economist, Claire McAndrew confirms that the unexpected rise in prices is due to greater demand from the ‘newly globalised rich.’ Georgina Adams, correspondent with the The Art Newspaper, says that one merely needs to “look at the current fad for billionaires to build their own private art museums. Add to that the fashionableness of art, and its overlap with lifestyle, celebrity and luxury goods … And a final upward pressure is the current interest in art as an investment, which is certainly underpinning some of the bidding we are seeing on ‘safe’ blue-chip artists such as Picasso, Richter, Calder or Miró.”
Another variable that may fuel auction activity is that museum and gallery funding has come under increasing pressure in the western world. This may create a void for cash-flush private buyers to step into. Government imposed austerity measures have resulted in dramatic funding cuts for the arts. The impact has been particularly hard-felt in Europe, where many galleries rely on state support for their survival. In countries where the arts have traditionally depended on private patronage (such as in the USA), Adams states that there has been ‘dragging effect on endowments and on philanthropic giving.’
Even if London and New York are losing market share to Asia, Christie’s and Sotheby’s still represent the lion’s share of auction revenues (albeit a declining share as the footprint of the Asian auction houses has continued to grow aggressively). Combined, Christies and Sotheby’s generate almost half the total volume of global art business. Although New York and London remain their main markets, Hong Kong has become their third stronghold.
Some headline grabbing auctions to look out for in the not too distant future include the following:
Christies, New York, 25 September 2012: Christies will be staging an auction of American Art, led by two superb Norman Rockwell drawings. The sale features over 160 lots by eminent American artists, including Greg Wyatt, Mary Cassatt, and Mario Korbel. Artistic styles include Impressionism, Modernism, Westerns, Illustrations, and bronzes, with estimates ranging from $3,000 to $120,000. The sale is expected to realize in excess of $2.5 million.
Christies, New York, 12 November 2012: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is selling its collection of the artist’s works to raise money for its endowment. All eyes are expected to be on ‘Marlon’, one of the most famous of Warhol’s portraits of Hollywood celebrities. The print features a leather-clad Marlon Brando resting on his motorbike from a publicity still taken for the 1953 movie The Wild One. Online auctions will begin in February 2013, with private sales conducted on an ongoing basis over a number of years after that.
Sotheby’s, London, 5 December 2012: Raphael’s Head of an Apostle will go under the hammer towards the end of this year. Sotheby’s estimates that this rare Renaissance-era drawing, a longstanding part of the Devonshire collection at Chatsworth, will sell for between £10m-£15m. However, some analysts have predicted that the final price may exceed this.
Sotheby’s, New York, 21 September 2012: The Contemporary Art auction will include works of art by some of the most celebrated post-war and contemporary artists. The line up includes Wade Guyton, Charline von Heyl, Enoc Perez and Yayoi Kusama. Among the 381 lots, estimates range from $5,000 to $300,000.
Bonhams, London, 11 October 2012: Bonhams has scheduled an auction of Contemporary Art and Design for October. Details are not yet available, as catalogues are usually only available four weeks before the auction.
Phillips de Pury, New York, 20 September 2012: Watch this space for Under the Influence, an auction of contemporary art to be hosted by Phillips later this month. Some of the featured big name artists include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kara Walker, William Kentridge, Richard Long, Shirin Neshat, Robert Mappelthorpe, Zhang Huan and Nan Goldin.
Words: Carla Raffinetti © Artlyst