Limited Edition Art Market Update –

Limited Edition Art Market Update –

Lot 39, VICTOR VASARELY, 'Kedzi' 1990

Lot 39, VICTOR VASARELY, 'Kedzi' 1990

On the 3rd of June auction house Phillips de Pury held their third ever sale of Modern and Contemporary Editions in New York after achieving good results for both auctions dedicated to Modern and Contemporary Editions  in 2008. The affordability of limited editions should be a definite draw card in the current economic climate but the fall from favour that contemporary art has experienced of late would have increased the risk of a poor result.  With expectations high for their first Modern and Contemporary Editions auction of 2009 there was plenty at stake for Phillips de Pury.  To find out how they went, keep reading.

The first auction of Modern and Contemporary Editions held by Phillips de Pury in May 2008 was very successful resulting in a total sale value of US$2,688,288 (including buyers premium) for 134 lots and achieving a 92% sold by value rate and 86% sold by lot rate. One year later and the 2009 Modern and Contemporary Editions auction, held on the 2nd of June, achieved similar statistics as the 2008 auction with 90% sold by value and 88% sold by lot. This, however, is where the similarities end. For starters, the 2009 sale total of US$1,120,075 was less than half the 2008 total of US$2,688,288. If you are thinking that the 2009 auction must have been smaller than the 2008 auction then you would be wrong because in 2009, a total of 280 lots were auctioned compared with 157 in 2008. What this means is that although the sold by value and sold by lot rate were almost the same for 2008 and 2009, the value of the lots in the 2009 auction were much lower than they were in 2008. The average price per lot for each auction confirms this with the average price per lot in 2009 coming to US$4590 compared to an average price per lot of US$20,060 in 2008. An ever more revealing indicator of the difference between the two auction is the fact that in 2008 a total of 63 out of the 134 lots sold fetched more than US$10,000 whereas in 2009, only 18 out of the 244 lots sold fetched more than $10,000.

With a majority of the lots on offer selling for less than US$4000 and many selling for one or two thousand dollars there were plenty of works that were affordable to almost anyone. Because of the lower value of the works being sold it is likely that a majority of the buyers were either collectors or decorators as opposed to hard core investors or trophy hunters. This is a good sign that people still have a certain amount of disposable income and that they are willing to spend that money on art within reason.

The results of the 2009 Modern and Contemporary Editions auction shows that limited edition works of art remain popular especially those priced at less than $10,000. Although the lower number of higher priced works in this years auction compared to the 2008 auction could be perceived as being the result of a lack of supply, I doubt that this would be the case and would suggest that this was a deliberate tactic by Phillips de Pury to ensure a high sold by lot and sold by value rate. The general reduction in the amount of money being spent on contemporary art across across the board was reason enough to increase the number of lower priced works in the auction in order to avoid a poor result. By focusing on low value works, Phillips de Pury could have ended up with an auction of low quality works that were undesirable regardless of their low price. Instead it appears that Phillips de Pury deserve a round of applause for putting together a catalogue of top quality yet affordable works of art.

**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.

One Response

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