The 2010 Art Market Review – artmarkeblog.com

The 2010 Art Market Review – artmarkeblog.com

2010 has been one of the most confusing, unpredictable and unexplainable years for me as an art market analyst. So many of the trends, events and fads that emerged during 2010 did not appear to be caused by the sort of conditions, have the same effects, or follow the same path of logic that one would expect they would given the way things have panned out in past years. This leaves me with no doubt that the art market is evolving at such a rapid pace that there is little point trying to justify or explain the events of today using logic that is based on the progression and events of previous years. In fact, more of the art market events that took place during 2010 appeared to defy logic than ever before. I do, however, strongly believe that one of the reasons that it has become even more difficult to determine what is going on with the art market is that the art market (auction houses in particular) has become adept at making the situation appear much better than it really is. Whether it be by skewing figures or manipulating the way results are perceived – galleries, fairs and auction houses have become the plastic surgeons of the art world.

What has also made 2010 such a hard year to analyse was the contraction, and slow regeneration, of the market for the work of trendy emerging artists and recent works by top contemporary artists – both of which are usually the most global, visible and publicised sectors of the market. As the market moves towards the work of artists with a proven track record, collectors and investors have shifted their focus from the usually dominant and globally relevant contemporary art market to the work of artists from a wide of variety of styles, mediums and movements that cannot appear to have very little in common. This has resulted in a situation where there is not one dominant global trend that art market analysts such as myself can focus on, but a number of smaller and disjointed trends that make reading the market particularly difficult.

A few months ago I wrote a series of posts on what I believed was a move towards a more sentimental art market, which appears to be exactly the direction that the market has headed. General disillusionment with the contemporary art market has sent many collectors and investors take a more sentimental approach to fine art that is characterised by a focus on the safety of more established artists and the familiarity of artists that they can relate to. When art collectors or investors seek safety and familiarity they are most likely to gravitate towards works by artists from the era and culture that they have the greatest connection to. This would explain the large number of seemingly unrelated trends that emerged during 2010 many of which involved previously unfashionable styles and movements that are distinctly associated with a particular era or culture.

There is no doubt that the art market has recovered far quicker than many people thought possible. Again, the unexpectedly rapid recovery has thrown a spanner in the works when it comes to analysing the art market and trying to make sense of what is going on. Some journalists and analysts have gone as far as to admit that they cannot explain how a market that seemed to be at breaking point could make such a rapid recovery. To give you an idea of how quickly the art market has recovered, in March of this year (2010) Walter Robinson, editor of Artnet Magazine, said that “Art Market Watch has been on something of a hiatus during the last few months. What with the recession, reporting on auction results just isn’t as compelling as it was during the boom years”. Six weeks later a painting by Picasso become the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when it fetched a staggering $106.5 million. A week after that an Andy Warhol self portrait sold at Sotheby’s for $32.6 million (more than twice the estimate) setting a new record for a Warhol self portrait at auction. Compelling enough?

When it comes to rationalising art market events there is much to be gained from knowing who has money to spend and how much they have to spend. The top end of the market is fuelled by super wealthy collectors whose level of wealth would not have been affected enough by the financial crisis to deter them from buying art. Therefore at the high end of the art market things have been pretty solid as is evident from the number of record auction prices set in 2010. The lower end of the market is fuelled by collectors who focus on edgy and trendy contemporary art by emerging and newly established artists, and who will usually have a high level of interest in the cultural and artistic side of fine art. Collectors at the lower end of the market are a very determined group who are always going to be around even if they appear a little less active at times. Things at the lower end have improved but have done so at a less than rapid pace which makes it difficult to judge where this sector of the market is heading. Without a doubt the sector of the art market that has suffered for the longest period of time due to the effects of the global financial crisis and the art market downturn is the middle market. The middle market includes lesser works by big name artists, and the more expensive (less justifiable) works by the trendy contemporary artists, which makes the middle market a sort of currently un-necessary compromise for the super rich, and a stretch too far for the modestly well off. Middle market works are, however, perfect for the financial advisor and hedge fund manager types who are more interested in art as a status symbol than the quality or art historical importance of the works they are buying. With the pay packets of hedge fund managers and financial advisors taking a massive hit due to the financial crisis, there is little interest in the middle market works. The super rich are still rich enough to not have to compromise and settle for middle market works and the modestly well off continue to fuel the lower end of the market.
My next post will be the top ten art market 2010 so stay tuned……..

**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

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The Great Contemporary Art Market Cock-Up – artmarketblog.com

The Great Contemporary Art Market Cock-Up – artmarketblog.com

All last week I was bombarded with headlines that announced the returning strength of the contemporary art market thanks to the phenomenal prices achieved for works by artists such as Warhol, Lichtenstein and Klein whose work was described by one major newspaper as the fons et origo (latin for source and origin) of contemporary art. Now I am not trying to be rude or degrade the journalists who make this mistake, but Warhol, Klein (Yves) and Lichtenstein are NOT CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS, and their work is NOT CONTEMPORARY ART !!. To be honest, I am sick of hearing and seeing artists of another era being referred to as ‘contemporary’, because they are not. The fact that Warhol, Klein and Lichtenstein are all dead – and were all born in the 1920’s – should be enough of an indication that their work should not be classified as contemporary any more. As for myself, when I refer to the work of contemporary artists I am referring to artists who are currently alive, active and producing work that is in line with the prevailing contemporary ethos. At this point I would like to say that there are many journalists and market representatives who do make the correct distinctions between post-war and contemporary art to whom I would like to give a round of applause.

The reason this trend of referring to the likes of Warhol, Lichtenstein and Klein as contemporary artists annoys me so much is because many representatives from the media and the market have been announcing the return of the contemporary art market based on records achieved by artists who are NOT contemporary artists. Thankfully, some market representatives and some journalists have rightly referred to the work of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Klein etc. as postmodern or post-war, which is a much more accurate description. I do, however, also have a problem with the use of the term post-war because of the broadness of the category which I think is another marketing ploy – but would still prefer they use the term ‘post-war’ instead of ‘contemporary’. Although this may seem like a small problem not worthy of being discussed, I think there are too many little issues that are not discussed – issues that together can cause major confusion and misunderstanding.

This whole ploy of including anything produced post world war II in contemporary art auctions and referring to them as works of contemporary art is just not right. In fact, it is deceptive and misleading. So why do some auction houses continue promoting the likes of Warhol, Klein and Lichtenstein as contemporary artists and alongside true contemporary artists? – I believe it is for three very simple yet potentially very lucrative reasons. Firstly, the association of emerging artist with the likes of Warhol, Klein and Lichtenstein lends more credibility and validity to the work of emerging artists. Secondly, the inclusion of a few big names in a contemporary art auction pretty much guarantees that a poor performance by the work of the true contemporary artists will be overshadowed by the success of the work of their predecessors. Thirdly, artists such as Klein, Warhol and Lichtenstein attract large and wealthy crowds who are more likely to throw down some money on the work of an emerging artist if the room is already buzzing from the record sale of a Warhol. Essentially, the inclusion of work by Modern masters such as Warhol, Klein and Lichtenstein appears to be nothing more than a clever marketing ploy.

If you disagree with my opinion then consider for a moment these definitions of the term ‘contemporary’ :

-marked by characteristics of the present period
-happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period of time
-belonging to the present time
-characteristic of the present; “contemporary trends in design”

As far as I am concerned, each of these definitions are blatant indications that the work of Warhol, Klein and Lichtenstein cannot be referred to as being contemporary.

The current definition of contemporary art that is used by a large portion of the art market – auction houses in particular – is basically a creation of the market it’s self that serves the pursuits of the auction houses very well. Although the journalists appear to be the main protagonists when it comes to promoting the work of non-contemporary artists as contemporary, the auction houses certainly don’t seem to do anything to discourage this practice. Although some auction houses do hold auctions that are promoted as including post-war and contemporary art, many fail to make much of an effort to distinguish between the contemporary and the post-war, which leaves the journalists free to make the incorrect assumptions and associations regarding the classification of the works – perhaps a cunning ploy by the auction houses to avoid being accused of incorrectly classifying the works. Regardless of who it is that is ultimately responsible for the errors being made, I think it is important that something be done to stop this misleading practice. In the interest of fairness I would like to encourage anyone who has a view on this issue – whether in agreement with my opinion or not – to make a comment below.

 

**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

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 3 – artmarketblog.com

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 3 – artmarketblog.com

If you want some further examples of the sentimental and nostalgic direction that the art market is beginning to take then I shall provide you with two more. The first example is the direction that the Australian Aboriginal art market has taken recently in response to a severe drop in prices and a major change in perception caused by several factors that I will discuss shortly. Australian Aboriginal art experienced a huge boom roughly in conjunction with the global contemporary art market boom, which saw prices for Australian Aboriginal art skyrocket, and the market for said works expand at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, that boom turned to a spectacular bust for much the same reasons and at roughly the same time that the global contemporary art market took a massive hit.

Much like the global contemporary art market, the Australian Aboriginal art market boom saturated the market with a plethora of rubbish, which in turn diluted the overall quality and relevance of the works of Australian Aboriginal art that were available on the market. Although it may seem that such a situation would serve to increase the value and desirability of the top quality works, it is just as likely (if not more likely) to make people question the value of the entire market and become rather disillusioned with the whole sector or genre – which is exactly what happened. Rampant fakery, forgery and mimicry, combined with obstructive and useless attempts at regulating the Australian Aboriginal art market, caused collectors and investors to fly the white flag of defeat in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstructions. As an indication of how far the Aboriginal art market has fallen as result of the problems associated with the market, the Australian Art Sales Digest has calculated that the value of Aboriginal art put up for auction has fallen from a high of just under $24 million in 2007 to just under $11 million in 2009. 2010 is shaping up to be yet another disappointing year for Australian Aboriginal art with total auction offerings likely to be even less than last 2009.

In response to the rather dire situation that the Australian Aboriginal art market is facing, the market and cultural sector has begun to focus on the Aboriginal master artists of the past who were the real reason that Aboriginal art became so popular. With most art movements and styles there are a small group of artists who pioneer the movement/style and whose work is considered to be the most legitimate and authentic. As a new movement/style progresses it is inevitable that other artists will begin to imitate the characteristics of the work of the pioneering artists in the hope of reproducing their success. In conjunction with the progression of that movement/style there is a tendency for the original purpose and intent of that movement/style to become severely diluted as more and more artists join the procession. The further the movement/style progresses, the more disconnected the movement/style becomes from the original purpose and intention. This is what happened with the Aboriginal art market and also with the global contemporary art market. Fixing such a problem means regaining the integrity, legitimacy and validity that the movement /style once had. To regain the integrity and legitimacy of the beginnings of a movement/style one must return to the roots of that movement/style – a process that is happening with the Australian Aboriginal art market and the global contemporary art market. Australian Aboriginal art dealers and other interested parties have begun to “rediscover ” the work of the early pioneers and disassociate themselves with the work of the plethora of imitators. Because most of the original Aboriginal master artists are either dead or very elderly so focussing on this sector of the market is a very sentimental affair indeed – especially for the families of the deceased artists.

The other example I want to use is the recent reconnection that the French have made with Monet – one of their most famous sons. Although the western world has embraced Monet and made him one of the most valued and respected artists to have ever laid paint to canvas, the French have long considered his work to be far too commercial for their sophisticated tastes. The Paris’ Galleries Nationales recently launched the first retrospective of Monet’s work since 1980 in the hope of reviving interest in the work of one of the world’s most highly valued artists. What makes this exhibition so significant is the reasoning behind the decision to hold this exhibition at this particular time. Guy Cogeval was appointed to the Presidency of the Musee d’Orsay in 2008 and is the curator of the Monet exhibition which is currently on show at the Grand Palais in Paris. When Cogeval was asked by Juliette Soulez of ARTINFO France (fr.artinfo.com): Why have a Claude Monet retrospective today?, Cogeval replied “Fifteen years ago, I personally felt that everything had been said about Monet and that people talked about him too much. I lived in North America for eight years and there were many Monet shows — it was almost a craze”. Then when asked if he was happy with the retrospective, Cogeval said “Overwhelmingly, visitors walking through this exhibition — including Impressionist specialists and college professors and my fellow curators — feel that they’re seeing a Monet they didn’t know before”. Both these statements suggest to me that a similar thing happened to Monet to what happened to the Australian Aboriginal art market and the global contemporary art market. It seems that a long period of western commercialisation of Monet’s work combined with what was essentially an overabundance of Monet focused scholarship effected a gradual diversion away from the “real” Monet.

The French, who were on the outside looking in, obviously cottoned on to what was happening to people’s perception of Monet’s work and were quite rightly disgusted by what was happening. I recently read a review of a book called The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings by Grace Seiberling of the University of Rochester who I think summed up the situation perfectly when she said about the book that: “Their focus on Monet as an artistic genius is in accord with the demands of a particular kind of inquiry into Impressionism, connected with museum exhibitions, and focused on the formal achievements of the sort of artistic superstars who attract paying visitors”. What Guy Cogeval is doing is taking a sentimental and nostalgic approach to Monet’s work in the hope that it will fix the damage that has been done.

**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

2010 Art Market Status Report – 2nd half – artmarketblog.com

2010 Art Market Status Report – 2nd half – artmarketblog.com

The art market has found its self in a rather interesting predicament.  On the one hand, confidence in the art market has increased considerably since the beginning of the year.  On the other hand, the ever increasing likelihood of a major financial crisis has seen more cautious and selective buying.  Adding to the drama is the increasingly obvious lack of top quality paintings by the Old Masters, which the market is currently showing a very healthy appetite for.

On the 13th of July an impression of Edvard Munch’s controversial work Madonna sold for an amazing £1,252,000 at Bonhams – twice its lower estimate of £500,000. This makes it the most expensive print ever sold in the UK and the second most expensive print in the world. At Bonham’s 19th Century Paintings sale held on the 22nd Apr 2010, ‘Female figure study’ , a drawing on paper by John Constable with a hidden history, sold for four times it pre-sale estimate to make £24,000. Also achieving success was an interesting  ‘Portrait of a Gentleman’ by George Dawe (British 1781-1829) which was the subject of fiercely competitive bidding and finally sold for £43,200 against a pre-sale estimate of £4,000-6,000.

At Christie’s Victorian & British Impressionist Pictures Including Drawings & Watercolours sale on the 16th of June,  Sir George Clausen’s ‘Head of a young girl (Rose Grimsdale)’ made £505,250 against an estimate of 250,000 – 350,000 setting a new world auction record for a work on paper by the artist. The same sale also saw a new record for Archibald Thorburn with yet another work on paper titled ‘Grouse in flight’ which made £217,250 against an estimate of 60,000 – 80,000

At Christie’s 23 June 2010 auction of Impressionist and Modern Art the top price was achieved by ‘Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto’, 1903, a Blue Period masterpiece by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), which sold for £34,761,250 against an estimate of 30,000,000 – 40,000,000.  Another portrait titled ‘Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III)’, one of the last great female portraits painted by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), sold for £18,801,250 against an estimate of £14 million to £18 million.

Yet more portraits achieved high prices at Christie’s Old Masters & 19th Century Art sale held on the 9th of July at their South Kensington saleroom. Margaret Sarah Carpenter’s ‘Portrait of a young girl’, who is thought to be Henrietta Carpenter, reached £32,450 against an estimate of 7,000-10,000 and achieved a new world record price for the artist at auction. A work from the Studio of Sir Peter Lely titled ‘Portrait of King Charles II’ also fetched £32,450 against an estimate of 6,000-8,000.

Over at Sotheby’s the ‘An Exceptional Eye: A Private British Collection’ sale held on the 14th of July saw a watercolour over pencil by John Robert Cozens titled ‘The Lake of Albano and Castel Gandolfo’ reach £2,393,250 against an estimate of 500,000 ‐ 700,000 –  the top price of the sale and a new record for the artist at auction.  The portrait miniatures performed particularly well with the Sotheby’s press release stating that “a very high price achieved for an early work by John Smart (lot 17, £56,450), and a record for a work by Bernard Lens (lot 10, Portrait of King Charles I, sold for £58,850)”

At Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale held on the 22nd of June, the top price paid was again for a portrait.  Edouard Manet’s ‘Portrait de Manet par lui-même, en buste (Manet à la palette)’ fetched £22,441,250 against an estimate of £20,000,000-30,000,000 –  a record for the artist at auction. The top-selling lot of the June Russian Paintings Day Sale was Boris Grigoriev’s oil on canvas Portrait of the artist’s son, Kirill, which sold for the sum of £253,250, above its high estimate of £200,000.  Another portrait, Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev’s ‘Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo’, took top spot at the 7 June Important Russian Art Sale selling for £2,505,250 – more than triple the £700,000 – 900,000 estimate .  Sotheby’s sale of the long-lost art trove of Ambroise Vollard saw more records set for works on paper held in Paris on the 29th of June. According to the Sotheby’s press release from the sale: “Key works among the highlights of the group were an extremely fine impression of Picasso’s celebrated 1904 etching ‘Le Repas frugal’ (another portrait), which more than doubled its high estimate of €300,000 to bring €720,750 (£584,078), the highest price of the sale. A monotype by Edgar Degas, ‘La Fête de la patronne’, circa 1878-79 soared past pre-sale estimates (€200,000-300,000) to bring €516,750. Paul Gauguin’s ‘Trois Têtes Tahitiennes ‘sold for €312,750 (£253,445) well above the estimate of €100,000 to €150,000 and a record was set for a print by Pierre-Auguste Renoir when ‘Le Chapeau Epinglé, Deuxième Planche’ more than tripled its high estimate of €80,000 to bring €252,750 (£204,822). Man Ray’s ‘Autoportrait solarié’ fetched €168,750 ($206,138)”

On the 2nd of June at Sotheby’s in London, in the sale of 19th Century European Paintings, one of the finest figure paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot ever to have appeared on the market was purchased by the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva for £1,609,250, exceeding its pre-sale high estimate of £1.2 million.  According to Sotheby’s “‘Jeune femme à la fontaine’ enjoyed an exceptional early provenance before it was requisitioned during the Nazi period, and was recently restituted to the heirs of its erstwhile owners.”

The results that I have highlighted above give a good indication of the current market sentiment and the market trends that are likely to define the market for the near future.  To start with, the popularity of portraits is a major indication that buyers are seeking the safety of the academic and the scholarly.  With portraits in particular, the level of skill and talent of the artist is pretty much immediately obvious to even the most untrained eye. When it comes to fine art, and portraits in particular, I do not think that people use the term craftsmanship to describe the work carried out by some artists.  To accurately portray the physical attributes and the personality of the sitter is, in my opinion, a craft that requires skill, training and a healthy dose of talent.  When one adds the historical value and importance of portraiture, the appeal of a famous (or not so famous) face from history to an investor becomes even more apparent.

I have spoken about the concept of fine art as a form of currency in previous posts.  If ever there was a type of art that was more suited to being used as a form of currency, it would have to be portraiture.   The number of common features that most portraits share, combined with the ease with which one can judge and value a portrait based on intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics, makes the portrait a prime candidate for an art world currency.  As I have said before, scholarship is the key to successful art investment, and successful wealth preservation using art for that matter.  Portraits are usually afforded the honour of in depth scrutiny and attention by scholars and academics because of the information that portraits can provide about various branches of history.  For this reason, among others, portraits are given the sort of long term continued attention that constantly adds value.

The second trend that I have alluded to is a greater interest in works on paper – in particular original drawings and watercolours.  I personally of the opinion that the increased popularity of watercolour paintings, particularly those by British artists, is due to the greater interest in the art of the Victorian era which was the golden age of British watercolour painting. Although original works on paper, such as drawings and watercolours, are often looked upon as the less valuable mediums in the scheme of things, the tide can change very quickly as it has recently.  As well as the revival of interest in Victorian art, a shortage of major works by the Old Masters and the Impressionists has driven buyers to seek the qualities that they are looking for in other mediums and periods. An article titled ‘Young masters in an old game’ from The Guardian newspaper written by John Windsor in November 2009 sums up the situation surrounding works on paper perfectly with the following statement: “Taste is shifting from new, ill-conceived conceptual art of the Brit-pack variety – costing thousands but faltering at auction, towards old, traditional skill-based art……. but you do need to develop an eye for quality – the easy, confident line of a master draughtsman, the luminosity of a watercolourist’s washes.” It is a shame that the watercolour painting is considered the poorer cousin of the oil painting because there are so many amazing watercolours by some of the world’s greatest artists that do not receive the exposure that they deserve.

**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

The Rise of Victorian Paintings Part 1 – artmarketblog.com

The Rise of Victorian Paintings Part 1 – artmarketblog.com

George Spencer Watson, R.A., R.W.S., R.O.I. (1869-1934) 'Four Loves I found, a Woman, a Child, a Horse and a Hound' signed and dated 'G. Spencer Watson/1922' (lower left) and inscribed 'G. Spencer Watson/20 Holland Park Rd/W14' (on the reverse) oil on canvas 56 x 77 in. (142.2 x 195.6 cm.)

For may people the mere mention of the Victorian era conjures up images of terribly uninspiring chocolate box worthy narrative scenes, and utterly awful reproduction “brown” furniture. Regardless of the fact that there is far more to the Victorian era than the clichés that have come to characterise the period, Victorian art continues to struggle to shake it’s bad image. The good news is that the market for what has been an unfashionable collecting category has improved significantly over the last few years, as has the image of the entire period. There is, however, still a long way to go before the work of the many fantastic Victorian artists who have languished in obscurity for so many years are given the recognition they deserve. An upside of this situation is that there is an opportunity for investors to take advantage of an undervalued sector of the market, and for collectors/connoisseurs to potentially immortalise themselves in the art world by becoming patrons of the period.

A number of factors, which I shall discuss later on, have contributed to a revival of interest in the art of the Victorian era – a period of art that had essentially become a casualty of the popularity of modernism. In fact, Victorian paintings have been assigned so little value in the past that, as collector of Victorian paintings “Kip” Forbes famously quipped in the 1960’s, one could assemble one of the world’s greatest collections of Victorian art for the price of a minor Monet. Which he did. Forbes was a major figure in the revival of Victorian paintings who I will profile in greater detail in a future post.

The increasing popularity of Victorian art was particularly evident at the Victorian and British Impressionist Art including Drawings and Watercolours auction held by Christie’s on the 16th of December 2009. A total of five new world auction records were set for classical Victorian works by some of the periods best known names such as William Powell Frith, Edward Reginald Frampton and Harold Knight. What is particularly exciting about many of the Victorian painting sales of the last few years is that many brilliant but relatively unknown artists are beginning to be recognised. One such artist is George Spencer Watson R.A whose painting “Four Loves I found, a Woman, a Child, a Horse and a Hound” achieved 151,250 pounds at the above mentioned auction against an estimate of 100,000-150,000 – a new world auction record for the artist. Two other paintings by Watson were also auctioned both of which sold for more than twice the high estimate. The entire 16th December sale wasn’t a massive success with only 63% of the lots sold but this is a reflection of the fact that there are a large number of second and third rate Victorian paintings on the market and a small number of connoisseur collectors who only want the very best works.

To be continued………..

**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

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