Sotheby’s Contemporary Turkish Art Sale –

Sotheby’s Contemporary Turkish Art Sale –

spiritualLast post I wrote about how auction houses introduce new sale categories to entice buyers, create buzz and take advantage of emerging markets. Also in my last post I mentioned that Sotheby’s have introduced a new Contemporary Turkish Art sale category which will be tested out for the first time in London on the 4th of March. A total of 73 works by 53 artists will be auctioned which are expected to fetch a total of around 1.2 million pounds. The 73 lots will be made up of paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations by some of Turkey’s most sought after contemporary artists as well as works by some of Turkey’s modern masters.

The are several reasons that the Sotheby’s contemporary Turkish art sale is such an important sale. Apart from the fact that it is the first sale dedicated to contemporary Turkish art to be held by Sotheby’s:
1. The sale will give a good indication of whether there is enough confidence in the market for Contemporary art to warrant the introduction of a new sale category.
2. The sale will give a good indication of whether the hype surrounding the work of contemporary Turkish artists can be converted into sales
3. The sale will give good indication of how many of the wealthy middle eastern collectors are still in the market for art

With some auction houses combining sale categories and reducing staff numbers to streamline their operation, introducing a new contemporary sale category at this time may seem like a bit of a risk. And, to be honest, it is. Had the new sale category been created to cater for a known, dedicated and well established collecting niche then the creation of a new sale category would be much easier to justify. Although Turkey has a surprisingly vibrant and well established contemporary art scene the number of dedicated collectors of contemporary Turkish art are relatively few in number. Sotheby’s must, therefore, be relying on the more substantial number of wealthy collectors of middle eastern art to bolster the number of bidders. With the financial crisis affecting virtually all art buyers, including the wealthy middle eastern buyers, the risk of a poor result is quite high. Does this mean that the contemporary Turkish art sale is a NOT a risk worth taking?. Definitely not. If it weren’t for companies such as Sotheby’s who are willing and able to take such a risk then the art market would never progress and expand. Regardless of whether or not the auction is a success the fact that Sotheby’s were willing to take the gamble is an encouraging sign that the financial crisis has not completely discouraged the market from moving forward.

If there is one emerging art scene that is worthy of having a dedicated sale then it would have to contemporary Turkish art. There has not been much written about the market for contemporary Turkish art but there is quite a lot to be said so stay tuned for more information on the market for Turkish art.


“Spiritual” by Turkish artist Taner Ceylan (est. £30,000-£40,000)

**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.

2 Responses

  1. “If it weren’t for companies such as Sotheby’s who are willing and able to take such a risk then the art market would never progress and expand. ”

    True but also their excessive risks, in the form of guarantees, resulted in the art auction industry being hurt much greater than it would have been if these guarantees would have been used less frequently.

  2. Think Chinese Contemporary Art is a great new place to explore and diversify one’s collecting..The Getty is not alone, and is a good indicator of an important trend…I would predict that for the next few years Chinese Contemporary Art will become the next haven for the Chinese, .Although the storm of collecting Chinese Contemporary art started with Europe, it now has rightfully gone back to the Chinese who are now starting to collect and are beginning to understand and catch up with there own art history…..

    Its a matter of time that Chinese Contemporary art will have fully caught up to western prices…. with their collecting base outnumbering europe and the west.
    In the short term—the next 12 to 18 months—there will be good opportunities to buy works by top-tier artists in both painting and photography. By top-tier, I mean the 40 or so who have gained art-historical recognition, have been internationally exhibited, and are being acquired by museums in the West as well as Asia. Historical works by these individuals—the first generation of Chinese contemporary artists, from 1989 through early 2000s—are relatively scarce and will continue to gain value. The global downturn has yielded some attractive pricing, particularly in comparison to top contemporary artists in the West, creating smart buying opportunities. In fact, art funds focusing on Chinese contemporary art have been formed to take advantage of this moment. Museums are also acquiring for their collections.

    Chinese contemporary photography is a buying opportunity. It’s still undervalued relative to painting, which was the focus for collectors for many years. Quality works will become increasingly scarce, particularly as China develops as a consumer society with its own collector base. The Chinese audience with disposable income is growing, and a consistent percentage of those people will become art advocates and collectors.

    The Chinese economy may be slowing down, but it is not in a recession. China will remain among the world’s most attractive investment destinations, and art will continue to parallel this direction. The result is that Chinese contemporary art will weather this economic downturn and will come out as an even stronger player.

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