2010 Art Market Predictions – artmarketblog.com

2010 Art Market Predictions – artmarketblog.com

Adriaen Coorte "Still life of strawberries in an earthenware bowl, on a stone ledge"

I have been watching the art market very closely over the last year and have to say that I was actually quite pleased with what I saw. The more scholarly and connoisseurial approach to fine art that emerged in 2009 has temporarily re-focused people’s attention on the historical, cultural and artistic value of art as opposed to the social and financial values that dominated the contemporary driven market of the boom period. I say temporarily, because although the glitz and glamour of the contemporary art market has taken a huge hit, and there is no doubt in my mind that the phenomenon that is contemporary art will shortly return to the position of power that has made it a force to be reckoned with in the past. Perhaps sooner than we may think!!

The scholarly and connoisseurial trend of 2009 still has a bit of juice in the tank and should continue to play a major role in the 2010 market. Take for the instance, the work of the rather mysterious Dutch Baroque still life painter Adriaen Coorte, whose work is little known outside the scholarly world and went largely unrecognized until he was rediscovered by a Dutch art historian in the 1950s. Works by Coorte rarely comes to market so when two small paintings came up for auction at Sotheby’s on the 2nd of December of 2009, it was predicted that there would be considerable interest, but not anywhere as much interest as there ended up being. The first painting, a still life of strawberries in an earthenware bowl was fought over by six bidders who pushed the sale price to 1,520,750 Euro which was not only more than ten times the 150,000 euro high estimate but was also a new auction record for the artist. Next on the block was the second work by Coorte which broke the auction record set by the previous painting when it sold for 1,576,750 Euro against the same estimate of 100,000-150,000 Euro. Both paintings were acquired by the same European collector.

Marcus Aurelius Root, Anthony Pritchard, 1850, quarter-plate daguerreotype

Another artist whose work is little known outside the scholarly world is that of Marcus Aurelius Root. An early work by the renowned Philadelphia daguerreotypist of Anthony Pritchard was a feature of the October 8 Miller-Plummer Collection of Photographs sale and reached the astonishing world auction record price for the artist of US$350,500 against an estimate of $20,000 – $30,000. The sale of this work by Root is another example of the current trend that has seen connoisseurs and scholars drive up the demand for works of cultural and historical significance. Root’s photo of Anthony Pritchard is not the only example of antique/vintage photography that has exceeded price expectations; the whole market for antique/vintage photography has experienced a continuing surge of interest as the importance of photography in an art historical context is further realised. 2010 should see a continuation of the interest in antique/vintage photography as collectors and museums vie for the top works in a niche that is still in it’s infancy, and that still presents opportunities for collectors and connoisseurs to acquire works of major cultural and art historical significance at potentially bargain prices.

As a result of the reduction in the demand for contemporary art, emerging markets such as South Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, Poland, Singapore, Iran, Greece, etc. have become a focus of dealers and auction houses in an attempt to generate new revenue streams. A deciding factor in the decision of which emerging market to penetrate has been whether or not there is a strong enough force of wealthy European/Western expats to fuel demand for souvenirs of their temporarily adopted homeland. Former expats of emerging markets are also being targeted by market forces in an attempt to encourage a sense of nostalgia that will result in the purchase of a memento of their time abroad. 2009 saw a concerted new ground being broken with region specific auctions, particularly with those of emerging markets such as Greece and Turkey – a trend that I predict will continue gaining momentum in 2009.

With owners of what are considered to be the most desirable and valuable works of art tending to sit on their assets while the art market bottoms out I predict that 2010 will see the slow return of those modern and contemporary works that tend to send the market into a flurry of excitement. Another prediction I will make is that art investment will continue to gain credibility and new avenues to invest in art will open up. A sign of the continuing acceptance of art as a viable alternative asset is the fact that Israeli billionaire Arnon Milchan recently told Forbes magazine that art is the best investment to own. In his words “If you have triple-A art, I’ve never seen it really go down. Great art is the best thing to own. We’ve seen recently the art market picking up fast. The last Sotheby sale broke records.”

Wishing everyone a great 2010 !!

Nic Forrest

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