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

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

Art Investment: The Cold Hard Truth pt. 2 (Time Will Tell) – artmarketblog.com

Art Investment: The Cold Hard Truth pt. 2 (Time Will Tell) – artmarketblog.com

Is art a long term investment?

Yes, art is definitely a long term investment.  In fact, art is really only a good investment if it is able to be held for long periods of time. As an indication of how long an investment in fine art should be held, most fine art funds require a ten year commitment  – the same length of time that I would recommend anyone investing in art should be prepared to hold on to their investment for.   Although it is quite old, a study completed in 1985 by Michael F. Bryan on behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland titled ‘Beauty and the Bulls: The Investment Characteristics of Paintings’ provides a good insight into the characteristics of the art market.  According to Bryan:  ‘Over the 15-year period (1970-1984), the rate of appreciation in paintings typically outpaced the rate of increase in the general price index (consumer price index). However, within short intervals (1973-1977and 1980-1982), painting’s price appreciation did not keep pace with inflation. During one year of inflationary pressure (1980-1981) paintings actually depreciated in value. In short, while the rate of appreciation in paintings is positively related to the general price level, and moreover has outpaced inflation over the full period of analysis, its year-to-year performance has been considerably volatile.’

Dr Rachel Campbell, an Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Maastricht , came to a similar conclusion as Bryan in her paper ‘The Art of Portfolio Diversification’.  According to Campbell:  ‘High volatility stems from the whimsical nature of the Art market to current trends and fads in society’s taste for Art. The nature of Art shall always be subject to such trends and as such results in a higher volatility portrayed in the prices and returns found in the Art market. A more prudent investor can alleviate the peaks and troughs from the returns on the Art market by focussing on the longer-term investment. Moreover, the high transaction costs involved with investing in Art result in the benefits tending to be reaped on the longer term.’

What the two studies above show is that although the average yearly return is quite high over a long period of time, those paintings that did increase in value often did not do so in a linear fashion.  In fact, the year to year change in value can be considerably volatile.  What the two studies also show is that just because you hold your investment in art for a long period of time, you are by means guaranteed to end up with a painting worth more than when you purchased it.  Due to the changing tastes and fashions of the art world, as well as the various economic factors that play a role in what people are willing to pay for fine art, the rate of return over the short term can undergo major and rapid changes.

The key to successful art investment is being able to know when the best time to sell is which may mean utilising the services of an advisor or consultant.  It is also extremely important to know how much you need to sell your art investment for to cover the selling costs, and to make a percentage profit that you are happy with.  Because of the nature of the art market it is important not only expect to have to hold your art investment for a long period of time, but also to expect to have to sell your investment at any time if the opportunity comes along to make a considerable profit.  A particular event or occurrence could potentially have an extremely positive effect on the value of your art investment which would be too good to ignore, but could also eventuate at any time with short notice.  Therefore, I cannot stress enough how important it is to know how much you need to sell your art investment for to cover the selling costs, and to make a percentage profit that you are happy with, so that if an opportunity comes up to sell your investment you are able to make an informed and quick decision.  In short, be prepared to hold your art investment for a long period of time, and also be prepared to sell at any time.

**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

Boo Saville at Trolley Gallery – artmarketblog.com

Boo Saville at Trolley Gallery – artmarketblog.com

One of my favourite young artists, Boo Saville, is currently having her work exhibited by Trolley Gallery in London. Saville’s interest in the visual representation of death has been a recurring theme in her work which she has continued to explore in this new body of work. What I love about Saville’s work is that she doesn’t just express herself through the image it’s self but also uses the medium she is working at the time to add another dimension of emotion and effect to her work. The gestures, textures and the different physical properties of her chosen medium are all used to great effect to convey the message and emotion that Saville is aiming for. It is her amazing understanding of the tools of her trade that make Saville such an effective and encapsulating artist whose work is sure to impress. Definitely an exhibition worth checking out.

Exhibition Summary:
Trolley Gallery is proud to present a second solo show by artist Boo Saville. Entitled ‘Totem’, this new body of work encapsulates the unifying anthropological and archeological aspects evident in her work, and her representation of the deceased captured through an exploration of various forms of mark-making, itself a reflection of human expression and representation. Saville constantly researches source material from a wide variety of documentary and scientific origins; books, journals and resources such as the Wellcome Institute. The internet also offers an almost limitless exploration of imagery and keywords, the small, often low resolution images becoming the direct subject matter in the final work, where the colours and often gnarled compositions of a deceased human translate into a delicate and detailed painting and drawing. “There is beauty and creativity in the process of destruction. I am interested in decay not as a negative reduction but as a unifying symbol of matter, of our bodies. There is a clarity for me when something is stripped down to the bare bones and studied or just observed.”

http://www.trolleybooks.com/exhibitionSingle.php?exhibId=283
Trolley Books
73a Redchurch Street
London
E2 7DJ

tel +44(0)20 7729 6591
fax +44(0)20 7739 5948

**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

Predicting Art Market Profit Potential Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

Predicting Art Market Profit Potential Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

Since posting part 1 of my Predicting Art Market Profit Potential posts I have had some people question whether it is possible to predict whether an artist will achieve market success before they actually do.  Unfortunately many people either don’t know about ArtFacts.net or don’t understand how it works which is why I am writing this post.   One person said that: “A successful artist with lots of exhibitions and fame, will certainly have an extensive auction sale record, whereas an unknown artist will not.”  I can understand where this person is coming from, but their statement is incorrect.  An artist who has been widely and extensively exhibited can have a strong primary market (galleries etc.) for their work and a virtually non existent secondary market (auctions etc. ) for their work.  In fact, I know of many contemporary artists whose works fetch considerable amounts of money on the primary market but have not had any of their works sold at auction or via any secondary market   Before an artist develops a strong secondary market they usually have to have developed a strong primary market which would mean having their work exhibited by galleries, at fairs and as part of group shows.  What ArtFacts.net does is utilise primary market data to establish how much attention an artist is receiving.  That primary market attention, if properly leveraged, should then be able to be turned into secondary market attention and increased secondary market value. According to ArtFacts.net “According to ArtFacts.net, “The career of an artist depends on the success of their exhibitions”. This is certainly true for the long term career of an artist. Because price data is rarely available for primary market transactions, ArtFacts.net have developed a ranking system that ranks artists according to how widely and extensively they are being exhibited and how prestigious the galleries/museums they are being exhibited at are.  Although some of the older/deceased artists will be having their work exhibited/sold on the secondary market, much of the data is for emerging contemporary artists whose work is being sold/exhibited on the primary market, and who don’t yet have a secondary market, which gives people the opportunity to use the data the ArtFacts.net have collected to make predictions regarding the future secondary market potential of an artist and their work. In order to provide some sort of context in which to place the more emerging artists, the ArtFacts.net Artist Ranking tool includes a large number of modern artists such as Warhol, Picasso, Richter, Nauman etc. who, as one would expect, occupy the top spots of the ranking.  By having the more senior artists to make comparisons with, it is much easier to put the success of the emerging artists into context and see how their career compares to the careers of artists who already have a strong and established secondary market.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with ArtFacts.net, the first of their Artist Ranking Tool was created in 1999 and has since undergone various adjustments and changes to make it is today.  The concept of ranking artists according to the amount of attention they and their work receives is not a new concept. According to the Getty Museum “Fascinated by the high prices achieved by contemporary (postwar) art, the German art critic Willi Bongard developed a system, known as the Kunstkompass, for ranking artists based on indicators of fame. Using data gathered from museums, commercial art galleries, and art journal reviews, Bongard calculated the success of an artist from year to year and compared it to gallery prices, thus determining the artist’s investment potential.”  The Kunstkompass top 100 contemporary artists continues to be published each year by Germany’s Capital magazine thanks to the efforts of Bongard’s widow, Linde Rohr-Bongard.  ArtFacts.net have taken Bongard’s concept one step further and introduced a recently developed  Career Analyser too which allows subscribers to see how an artist’s career has developed over the years and how their ranking has changed.  According to ArtFacts.net “The Career Analyser Tool examines an artist’s career in the ranking system from two further perspectives: the position in the ranking and the score for each exhibition – both results are calculated over the years. The last object of the analysis is the “Peer Group”: on the basis of the different ranking careers, we detect the artist’s artistic entourage that is the artists with whom he/she usually exhibits in group exhibitions.”  ArtFacts.net have also developed a separate Auction Analyser Tool in conjunction with ArtTactic.com which provides a detailed and in depth analysis of an artist’s career in the auction market.

With a total of just under 80,000 ranked artists, there is no shortage of information on ArtFacts.net so I urge everyone to take the time to check it out and purchase a subscription.  It will be well worth your while

Top 100 Ranking
http://www.artfacts.net/index.php/pageType/ranking/paragraph/4/lang/1

Artfacts.net stats:

19,513
exhibitors worldwide
166
countries
216,913
exhibitions worldwide
229,700
artists biographies
79,338
ranked artist
16,608
works of art
1,421
catalogs

**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