Are Art Auction Houses Mocking Art Buyers? – artmarketblog.com

Are Art Auction Houses Mocking Art Buyers? – artmarketblog.com

A couple of posts ago I said that I have great respect for art auction houses – well, after the events of the last few weeks that respect is rapidly declining. If you have read my last few posts on contemporary art auctions then you will know that I have issues with the way some auction houses conduct their business. Unfortunately, over the last few days it has come to my attention that the problems that I identified are only the tip of the iceberg. Not only does there seem to be the potential for art auction buyers to be influenced by incorrectly categorised and catalogued works, but apparently some auction houses now appear to conducting auctions in a manner that suggests that art buyers are unable to make decisions for themselves when buying at auction, and need to be told what they should be buying. There are two recent events that have lead me to this opinion the first being the Phillips De Pury “Carte Blanche” auction, and the second being the recent Sotheby’s November contemporary art auction.  Before I begin I want to state that the following is purely my opinion and not in any way a statement of fact.

A comment by Alex Rotter, head of the Contemporary Art Department at Sotheby’s in New York, was the first indication I received that the extent to which auction houses are influencing what buyers purchase may have increased recently. Yes, auction houses have been influencing what art buyers purchase for many years, and as businesses are more than entitled to do so, but it seems that they have begun to exert an even stronger influence of late with the seemingly blatant tactics that have caused me to write this post. According to Rotter, commenting on the Sotheby’s November contemporary art auction, “The success of tonight’s sale was the result of editing – getting the right young, Pop and Abstract Expressionist material into the sale”. So, is this an indication that auction houses are doing something that I am sure many suspect they have been doing for some time – deliberately orchestrating sales to encourage potential buyers to pay more for works than they should, or purchase works that they didn’t originally intend to buy? Is Rotter suggesting that by including a certain array of works, and arranging the catalogue in a particular way, that the auction houses are able to influence buying behaviour? Or, is he suggesting that the contemporary art sales are so carefully planned to ensure that the auction consists of works that they know they have buyers for, that they auction house can guarantee themselves a successful sale before the sale has taken place? Or is the meaning of this comment something else entirely? I will leave the answers to these questions up to you for the mean time. Food for thought though……

Now for the “Carte Blanche” sale. Having a themed auction that allows buyers who are looking for something very specific to be offered a range of related objects is something that I have no problem with; Phillips often hold themed sales such as their music themed sales. I do, however, have issues with a blatant marketing tactic being masked as a cultural and curatorial exercise, which appears to be what has taken place with the Phillips De Pury “Carte Blanche” sale. Philippe Segalot, the so called “curator” of the sale, is quoted as saying in a Phillips De Pury press release that:

“I have always been interested in the concept of curated sales, where the artworks are selected not for their market value but for their artistic quality, historical importance and coherence within the group. Here, I tried to push this idea further by bringing together a small “collection” comprised of my favourite works by my favorite artists. The result is a true self-portrait, a close representation of my life as an art lover, an art collector and an art advisor.”

To begin with, I have a problem with the notion that such a wide range of Segalot’s favourite works from his favourite artists just happened to be available for sale at the right time. AmI really to believe that the owners of Segalot’s favourite works of art were for some reason willing to sell those works just because he asked nicely? Phillips De Pury mentioned in the same press release that I got the above quote from that “He (referring to Segalot) has developed the Carte Blanche sale with the same focus and attention to quality that a private collector would develop their own collection”. So, Segalot spent 50 years putting this sale together did he? Secondly, I have a problem with Segalot suggesting that the mechanics of the sale were not financially motivated – I mean why else would an auction house hold such a sale? It is not as though the sale had any art historical or cultural significance, yet Segalot seems to be suggesting that it does. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I have a huge issue with Phillips De Pury suggesting, in my opinion, that buyers need someone like Segalot to tell them what they should be buying. Because the auction houses seem to be making such an effort to dictate buying trends, there is a huge risk of the works associated with these trends dropping in value significantly when the auction houses move onto promoting the next profitable trend. I believe that the more the decision of what to purchase is taken out of the hands of the collectors and investors, the less stable and sustainable the art market becomes. The reasoning behind this philosophy is that collectors (and even investors) create and strengthen long term trends whereas the market is interested in making as much money from whatever trend seems most profitable at the current time.

The reason that I have such a problem with the developing and strengthening trend of auction houses dictating what art people should be buying, and encouraging buyers to pay more than they should be paying for works of art, is that some time in the future the buyers who fell for this ploy will likely find out that they paid too much. What Phillips De Pury seem to be inferring with their “Carte Blanche” sale is that the works included in the sale somehow become more valuable or desirable because they were chosen by a well known and respected art world figure. And, judging by the success of the sale, plenty of buyers fell for the ploy. I just hope these buyers don’t expect to be able to recoup what they spent anytime soon.

There are even more issues with the “Carte Blanche” sale than the ones I have outlined, but those will have to wait for another post.

Disclaimer: Auction houses are well within their rights to conduct their business in the ways that I have discussed above.  I do not claim to have any proof that the auction houses are doing anything wrong, but am merely raising questions in the hope that they encourage discussion and dialogue.  The above post is purely my opinion and is in no way a statement of fact.

**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

Christmas Gifts for Art Lovers 2010 – artmarketblog.com

Christmas Gifts for Art Lovers 2010 – artmarketblog.com

My ‘Christmas Gifts for Art Lovers’ posts are always popular so it is with great pleasure that I present the 2010 version.

1. ‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ book by Philip Mould

‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ is a collection of case histories that provide a fascinating insight into the sleuthing escapades of the art world’s answer to Sherlock Holmes

Residents of the USA can purchase a hard or soft copy of ‘The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures’ here:

http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780670021857,00.html?The_Art_Detective_Philip_Mould

Non US residents can purchase a copy here:

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Detective-Frauds-Search-Treasures/dp/0670021857/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286417781&sr=8-1

2. ‘Cracking Antiques’ book by Mark Hill & Kathryn Rayward

Turn your home into a work of art with this awesome book by Mark Hill and Kathryn Rayward.

Shows you how to add style and glamour to your home by buying secondhand, vintage and antique furnishings. Companion to a new prime time series for BBC2, this book also shows you how to turn your back on bland, mass-produced flat-pack furniture and embrace secondhand treasures.

UK residents can purchase here:

http://www.octopusbooks.co.uk/books/general/9781845335564/cracking-antiques/

Non-UK residents can purchase here:

http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Antiques-Mark-Hill/dp/1845335562/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287714747&sr=1-1

3. A great limited edition photo from focusmaine.com

Each week FOCUSMAINE.COM features one of Maine’s fine art photographers and one of their images. These photographs are exclusively available through FM until each edition size is sold out

http://shop.focusmaine.com/

4. Large Spot Clock – Damien Hirst

The clock uses Hirst’s popular spot paintings as its face, the front of which is printed with his signature and the Hirst/Hirst logo. The rear is printed with the Other Critera logo and the clock name.

https://www.othercriteria.com/browse/all/all/spotclock_large/

5. Art Safari series DVD by Ben Lewis

In ART SAFARI, Art Geek Ben Lewis travels the world in search of Great Contemporary Art – and art that might be great. A playful series of eight films that are both analytical adventures and adventurous analyses.

UK residents can buy here:

http://www.benlewis.tv/films/films_artsafari/art-safari-series-1-and-2-for-sale/#more-212

Non-UK residents can buy here:

http://homevideo.icarusfilms.com/new2009/arts.html

6. Limited edition print by Jitish Kallat from Saatchi Gallery

The lithographic print “Sweatopia (1000 People/ 1000 Homes)” has a simple image of a shirt hung to dry on a clothes line. As if the garment were a carrier of the city’s inner secrets, it drips a thousand narratives culled from a vast, colliding humanscape. The string it hangs on is formed by a text drawn from Tristan Tzara’s nonsensical and richly layered dada poem titled “The Great Lament Of My Obscurity Three”.

Price: £558

Purchase here:

http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/galleryshop/

7. Subscription to Modern Painters magazine

Modern Painters is your source for international contemporary art. Covering artists and works like no other, Modern Painters provides you with updates on avant-garde design, new artists to watch, and much more from all over the art world.  Ten issues for only US$20 !!

Get a digital or hard copy subscription here:

http://www.artinfo.com/modernpainters/

8.Limited edition photo by Alin Popescu from Pure Photo Collections at PurePhoto.com

Alin Popescu, a simple Romanian photography hobbyist, became internationally renowed after winning the first edition of Microsoft’s Future Pro Photographer contest in 2006.

http://art.purephoto.com/search?q=Alin+Popescu+

9. Artist of the Month Club Membership

The AMC works like a subscription. Each month for one year, a different curator selects an artist to create an original artwork. These artists can be established or up-and-coming, but must represent what the curator sees as vital and long-lasting. Someone worth owning. Subscribers to the AMC will not know the identity of these artists beforehand, which introduces Duchampian chance into the act of collecting.

http://www.artistofthemonthclub.com/

10. Custom sculpted mini portrait by Mark Swan

Portraiture has always formed an important part of Mark’s work and following recent commissions for a series of celebrity and sporting figurines, he has specialised in sculpting mini-portraits, which even though palm sized still capture the likeness and feeling of his subjects.

http://www.markswan.co.uk/mini_portraits.html

**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. 2 – artmarketblog.com

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

The demise of the world famous Polaroid Company, and the subsequent sale of many iconic and nostalgic images from the Polaroid Company collection, is yet another example of an event that ties in with the onset of a new sentimental art market era that I began writing about in my previous post. A casualty of the digital age, the bankrupt Polaroid Company was forced to sell off 1200 photographs by artists such as Ansel Adams, Mr. Close, Mr. Wegman, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney, Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe, Warhol and Lucas Samaras to pay off creditors. The June 2010 sale conducted by Sotheby’s attracted huge interested and managed to exceed expectations with a final total of $12.5 million – well above the high estimate – and a new auction record for Ansel Adams whose ‘Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park’ achieved the sale’s top price of $722,500. Along with the sale of the Lehman Brothers collection, the sale of the Polaroid collection is yet another art market event that evokes a sense of nostalgia; the sale of the Polaroid collection was a particularly sentimental occasion because it essentially represented the demise of an entire artistic medium. Together, these two events signalled the beginning of the end of an era that started with the art market losing its innocence with the Sotheby’s price fixing scandal that surfaced in 2000, and the world losing its innocence with the life changing events of 11th September 2001.

The art market era we are in the process of farewelling will be remembered for three things: the rise of emerging markets, conspicuous consumption and a voracious appetite for the work of daring young contemporary artists. As much as I am enjoying an art market far less obsessed with daring young artists and conspicuous consumption, I am sure that we have not seen the last of either of them. I do, however, believe that we have almost seen the last of the mania associated with emerging markets. The maturation of what were some of the last undeveloped art markets capable of playing on the world stage makes me think that the global art market of the future may be struggle to fill the void that these now rapidly developing markets have left. South East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia have all experienced rapid rates of art market development that have thrust many artists from these countries onto the world stage. Also experiencing considerable development are markets in regions such as Latin-America and the Middle East. Even China is taking steps to develop a more mature and accountable art market with the development of an art trading organization that will set an example in helping to regulate the art market. The Beijing Imperial City Art Trading Center is, according to an article from Xinhuanet, a “two-story art-trading center covers 3,700 square meters and includes different sections for displaying, trading and education”.

Sentimentality is an unavoidable consequence of the maturation process that the few previously undeveloped art markets have undergone over the last few years. The hype that usually surrounds the “discovery” of an untapped, undeveloped art market has to be replaced by something when there are no longer any underdeveloped markets to discover. Those previously undeveloped markets also need to replace the momentum that an emerging, developing market experiences with a more long term and sustainable source of momentum. Emerging art markets are usually developed using fresh, emerging talent because it is easier to introduce unknown fresh talent into the contemporary art market than it is to introduce unknown (from a global perspective) established masters to the modern/classical art market. As one would expect, when the momentum associated with an emerging art market runs dry, that market will begin looking to the past for new sources of momentum and thus automatically develop a more sentimental and nostalgic market.

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

Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 6 – artmarketblog.com

Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 6 – artmarketblog.com

As the final post in this series I want to summarise my findings, but before I do I want to reiterate the reason that I wrote this series of posts on Portraits as Art Market Currency. The catalyst for this series of posts was, and still is, the continuing saga relating to the supposed instability of some of the world’s most significant economies. Economists and journalists have been making predictions for quite some time regarding the supposedly impending crisis that range from “the extent of the crisis is being grossly exaggerated” to “it is only a matter of time before we experience a catastrophic global financial crisis”. Even though opinions relating to the extent of the crisis vary greatly, it seems that a majority of experts believe that there is at least a significant chance that there will be a series of negative events relating to the economic status of some countries in the near future. Although it is unlikely that a complete global financial meltdown will take place, hypothesising on the effects that such an event would have on value of the art market reveals extremely interesting information regarding the way fine art is valued, and the way we assign value to art objects. This information is extremely useful for investors in fine art as it highlights the importance of having a strategy, and provides indications of how that strategy should be structured.

The reason I made the comparison between portraits and currency is because the way we assign value to currency can tell us a lot about the way we assign value to fine art. For several decades there has been heated debate surrounding the way currency is valued – a debate that stems from the global change to a fiat money system from a Gold Standard. To recap , the Gold Standard “was a commitment by participating countries to fix the prices of their domestic currencies in terms of a specified amount of gold” (US Library of Economics and Liberty). The benefit of the gold standard is that currency essentially had intrinsic value because it was basically able to be exchanged for a certain amount of gold. According to gold expert Paul Nathan in an article on Kitco.com “The intrinsic theory of value holds that worth or value is contained within an object. It holds that economic goods possess value inherently, innately, despite the market, despite supply and demand, i.e., in spite of men’s values, choices, and actions”. The Fiat money system, on the other hand, is currency that a government has declared to be legal tender, despite the fact that it has no intrinsic value and is not backed by reserves. Historically, most currencies were based on physical commodities such as gold or silver, but fiat money is based solely on faith. Because fiat money is not linked to physical reserves, it risks becoming worthless due to hyperinflation. If people lose faith in a nation’s paper currency, the money will no longer hold any value.

What I found particularly interesting when researching this topic is that the art market can essentially be divided into two different markets – one market that has similarities to the Gold Standard, and another market that has similarities to the fiat money system. Just like the fiat money system, the contemporary art market relies very much on faith in the artists whose work is being bought and sold. The value of the work of contemporary artists is dictated by the galleries who sell the work with buyers basically expected to have faith in the valuation set by the gallery. Just like with fiat currency, if people lose faith in a contemporary artist then their work is severely devalued, or even rendered worthless. The market for classical figurative works of art, on the other hand, resembles the gold standard because of the intrinsic value many of these works contain due to their physical characteristics and their status as historical documents. Regardless of what happens to the art market or to the reputation of the artist in question, such classical figurative works of art (portraits in particular) will always have significant technical, historical and documentary value; just as currency backed by gold will always have value regardless of what happens to the economy of the country whose currency is backed by the gold. When it comes to art investment and wealth preservation, the security and stability of the value placed on a work of art is extremely important. Although the glamorous world of contemporary art market speculation may seem to be the most popular and most viable method of profiting from the purchase and sale of art – fine art is, by the very nature of the art market, a long term investment. In fact, the benefits of investing in art can only really be taken advantage of when a long term approach is taken.

To finish with there are three important points that I want to emphasise:

1. the long term value of a work of art is linked to a certain degree to the extent to which one can disassociate the work of art from the artist, and the extent to which one can assign value to the actual characteristics of the art object as an independent entity.

2. the value that can be placed on portraits because of their status as historical documents is the sort of future proof intrinsic value that will always remain with the portrait and cannot be disassociated from the portrait. It is this sort of intrinsic value that makes the portrait a good candidate for use as currency.

3. when it comes to art investment and wealth preservation using fine art, it is possible to take a strategic and mathematical approach that virtually guarantees success over the long term. This sort of approach requires, however, require discipline, patience and objectivity.

Part 1:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/08/10/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-1-artmarketblog-com/

Part 2:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/08/19/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-2-%e2%80%93-artmarketblog-com/

Part 3:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/08/31/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-3-2/

Part 4:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/09/10/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-4-artmarketblog-com/

Part 5:
http://artmarketblog.com/2010/09/17/portraits-as-art-market-currency-pt-5-artmarketblog-com-2/

**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

Wyeth and Rosseau at Brunk Auctions – artmarketblog.com

Wyeth and Rosseau at Brunk Auctions – artmarketblog.com

Courtesy Brunk Auctions:

Auction to take place on September 11-12, 2010

Few painters loved hunting dogs more than classically trained American artist Percival Rosseau (1859-1937). “A man should paint what he knows best and I know more about animals than anything else,” he said. Rosseau’s benefactor, industrialist Samuel G. Allen
(1870-1956), shared his affection for hunting dogs. He helped found the Amateur Field Trials Clubs of America (1917) and the English Spaniel Field Trial Association (1922). Two of the Rosseau paintings in the sale are of Allen’s spaniels: A Tripple (sic) Point: Bob, Prince and Ned 1924 and End of a Perfect Day, Allen’s Flag and Queen 1923. Each carries a pre-sale estimate of $40,000/$60,000. Samuel Allen owned at least five Rosseau paintings; Perfect Day was one of them and there is a possibility that Allen also owned Tripple Point.

Rosseau immortalized Samuel Allen’s dogs. Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) did the same for the people he knew and loved. “I’m involved with the people I paint,” he once said. “They are not people I paint and send home.” The sportsmen who posed for Wyeth’s Shore Pine 1939 were his life-long friends, Milton Teel and Maine fisherman Walt Anderson. The scene is Turkey Cove, an inlet near Port Clyde, Maine. The 22 ½ inch by 30 inch watercolor over pencil on paper (est. $60,000/$90,000) was sold by Macbeth Gallery in New York in 1940 and given to the consignor in 1955. Walt Anderson also posed for Wyeth’s Sea Dog, a portrait of the red-bearded old salt owned by the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Lot 0322 Andrew Wyeth (Pennsylvania/Maine, 1917-2009), "Shore Pine, © 1939",

Andrew Wyeth is one of America’s most popular painters. His Shore Pine,
1939 depicts two of his many friends in a skiff on Turkey Cove, Maine. Signed lower left “Andrew Wyeth” the 22 ½ inch by 30 inch watercolor is expected to bring $60,000 to $90,000.

Lot 0317
Percival Leonard Rosseau
(Louisiana/Connecticut/Fayetteville, North Carolina, 1859-1937), “A Tripple [sic] Point; Bob, Prince and Ned, 1924”, signed lower right “Rosseau 1924” and signed and titled verso, oil on canvas, publishing rights label verso for Brown & Bigelow “Subject Number 1312”, 26-1/8 x 38-1/8 in., original wood shallow-cove frame, draw crackle, fiberboard between canvas and stretcher, crackle, flaking top left, abrasions at edges, canvas loose, grime, retouch in areas of draw crackle mainly located in background; frame with popped corners, abrasions
Possibly Samuel Allen, Denton, North Carolina; Brown & Bigelow, New York (label verso); Private Collection, North Carolina
Estimate: $40,000 – $60,000
Reserve: $35,000

Lot 0318
Percival Leonard Rosseau
(Louisiana/Connecticut/North Carolina, 1859-1937), “End of a Perfect Day, Allen’s Flag and Queen, 1923”, signed lower right “Rosseau/1923”, title, notes and date inscribed by the artist verso, oil on canvas, 26-3/8 x 50 in., original carved and giltwood frame,
original stretcher and tacking edge, crackle, cupping, points of abrasion, points of retouch in sky and at draw crackle, card between canvas and stretcher (by artist), recently cleaned.
Acquired from artist by Samuel G. Allen; owner of the dogs; by descent to the consigner.
Estimate: $40,000 – $60,000
Reserve: $40,000

Lot 0319
Percival Leonard Rosseau
(Louisiana/Connecticut/Fayetteville, North Carolina, 1859-1937), “Stylish Work”, signed lower left “Rosseau 1923”, dated, inscribed and titled verso card, oil on canvas, 9-1/4 x 23 in., original gilt wood frame with glass,
good condition, card between canvas and stretcher; frame with chips and losses to corners
Arthur Ackermann & Son, Inc., New York (label verso); Private Collection, North Carolina
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

Lot 0322
Andrew Wyeth
(Pennsylvania/Maine, 1917-2009), “Shore Pine, © 1939”, signed lower left “Andrew Wyeth” and stamped verso with reference number “A667”, watercolor over pencil on Arches paper, 22-1/2 x 30 in. (page), modern gilt wood frame,
hinged in, paper tape and adhesive residue verso all edges with toning through to front approximately 3/4 in.
Macbeth Gallery, New York, 1940; by gift to consignor, 1955
Estimate: $60,000 – $90,000
Reserve: $60,000

For more information, contact Jerry Israel (telephone: 828-254-6846 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              828-254-6846      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              828-254-6846      end_of_the_skype_highlighting) at Brunk Auctions,
Asheville, North Carolina

http://www.brunkauctions.com

Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

Portraits as Art Market Currency Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

Welcome to part 2 of my series on the concept of portraits as an art market currency.  Before I continue, I would like to explain exactly what I mean by an art market currency for those that are perhaps slightly perplexed by the concept. Obviously, fine art is never going to replace paper money as the dominant form of currency.   My research focuses less on the actual use of currency as a medium of exchange, and more on the concept of currency as an indicator and a benchmark.  It is important to understand that my concept of an art market currency is merely a theoretical concept – the analysis of which I believe can provide valuable information and knowledge for investors and collectors.

In the currency world, the US dollar is used as a benchmark (world reserve currency) for all other currencies because of the political and military strength of the US, as well as the very strong gold reserves that the US held when the Bretton Woods system was introduced after World War II. Although the art market doesn’t have an official genre, period or style that acts as a benchmark for the rest of the market, the popularity and visibility of the contemporary art market means that it tends to be used as a de-facto barometer for the state of the art market.  Unfortunately, the contemporary sector of the art market would have to be the worst sector to use as an indicator for the health of the entire art market.  As we all know, the contemporary sector of the art market is a highly volatile and unstable market that is constantly at the mercy of cultural and social trends – and is often assigned a value that has very little to do with the actual art object.  So, if the contemporary art market is not a suitable indicator of the status of the art market, is there a category of art that is?  This is just one of the questions that I hope to answer with this series of posts.

Let me throw a scenario your way that will hopefully help make the reasoning behind the concept of portraits as an art market currency much clearer.  If I were to give someone who knew nothing about art 100 works of art consisting of: 20 cubist paintings, 20 conceptual  works, 20 figurative landscape paintings, 20 religious icons and 20 figurative portrait paintings – and asked that person to look at each category separately and rank the works in each category according to how much they thought each work was worth based purely on the physical characteristics of the art object (without knowing anything about who the artist is, when they were painted, who the portraits are of, the location of the landscapes etc.) – which category do you think they would find the easiest to rank?  I think that conceptual art would be the hardest, because with conceptual art the main component of the work is the concept, not the art object.   Because abstract art is so nonrepresentational, it is extremely difficult to assess unless the purpose or motivation of the artist is known, which rules out the cubist paintings as the easiest to rank.   Religious icons could be compared to portraits – however, the symbolic nature of religious icons means that their value is closely tied to the cultural, religious, social and art historical context in which they were created, which makes valuing such works difficult for experts, and virtually impossible for anyone who does not have a thorough knowledge of the genre.  Figurative landscape paintings would seem like a good candidate for the most easy to rank because of the representational nature of such works, the general familiarity people have with the way nature should be depicted, and also because the skill and talent of the artist are so easy to determine from the way the picture is presented.  What lets the figurative landscape paintings down is the lack of consistency in terms of setting, location, season, angle etc. which means making a comparison between two landscape paintings is likely to be very difficult.  Finally, we come to portraiture.  There are several factors that make the physical characteristics of portraits so easy to compare and rank, including:

– the consistency of the subject (human face)

– the universal nature of the face

– the common goal of figurative portrait painters (to accurately depict the human face)

– the ease with which virtually anyone can determine how skilled or talented the artist is at accurately depicting the human face

In my opinion the physical characteristics of figurative portraiture are the most comparable and easily ranked of all the genres and types of fine art.  I cannot think of another genre or type of fine art that has such consistent characteristics and is so universally decipherable.  The fact that the physical characteristics of figurative portraits are so comparable across the whole genre, and so easy to rank, means that they are also easier to value when compared to other genres.  It is the characteristics of figurative portraiture that I have discussed above which give figurative portraiture an edge over other genres when it comes to the concept of fine art as currency.

Stay tuned for part 3……….

**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