Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 2 –

Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 2 –

bonhams-and-goodmanBy the last round of auctions for 2008 in November and December it was obvious that the auction industry was still coming to terms with the art market correction taking place despite the fact that signs of a cooling market had been evident for several months prior. It appears that some auction houses had taken the opportunity to adjust their sales to reflect the leaner times but it also appeared that some of the auction houses had not been so savvy and either were being pressured by their vendors to work with higher estimates or had just not made the correct revisions. The bargains that people are bound to be seeking as the art market undergoes a correction had just begun to appear at the November/December sales prompting some of the more confident buyers to take advantage. Overall, however, the end of year sales continued to reflect the softening market albeit with some scattered positive results brightening that light at the end of the tunnel. What needs to be understood is that the results for 2008 were no where near as bad as many people made out. Taking all things into consideration the Australian art market appeared to have held up rather well by the end of 2008 with the effects of the financial crisis seemingly not affecting the Australian market as much as certain international markets.

One auction in particular stole the end of year show achieving results well up on the other auction houses and in the process. That auction was the November 26 Deutscher-Hackett sale which took in a total of $3,127,260 (including buyers premium) and sold 73% of works by value and 72% by volume. In comparison, the combined Deutscher-Menzies and Lawson-Menzies November sale achieved 62% by value and 70% by volume, the Sotheby’s November sale achieved 67.4% by value and 60.8% by volume and the Bonhams and Goodman sale achieved 61% by value and 59% by volume. One of the smaller auction houses, Leski Auctions, held their first dedicated art auction on the 2nd of December and managed to sell a quite respectable 61% by value and 62% by volume for a total of $510,048 (data from

Overall the Australian art market took a significant step backwards in 2008 compared to 2007 with auction sales dropping from a $175.6 million record year in 2007 to $114.5 million. Although the figures for 2008 look particularly bleak when compared with those of 2007 the bigger picture is not quite as bad with 2008 auction sales total well up on the 2006 auction sales total of AU$104 million. One of the most interesting statistics from 2008 comes from the Australian art auction sales database, the Australian Art Sales Digest (, who calculated that the overall art auction clearance rate (percent sold by number) decreased from 71.9% in 2007 to 65.6% in 2008.  Importantly, the drop in the clearance rate is not as big as many people would have predicted.

To be continued…..

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

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