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

Advertisements

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

As the tainted artistic fruits of the great Lehman Bros. deception begin new lives in the hands of far less unscrupulous owners, the art market continues along a path of reminiscence and reflection that I believe signals a new, yet perhaps to be short lived, era of sentimentality. The beginning of a series of much hyped fire sales of the Lehman Bros. art collection could be seen as the start of a symbolic cleansing – the moment that the unjustifiable excesses of a once heady contemporary driven art market were finally laid to rest (at least for now). Ironically, one of the most successful lots of the recent Sotheby’s auction of Lehman Bros. items was a Lehman Bros. sign from their UK office which fetched 34,000 pounds, more than 15 times the 2-3,000 pound estimate.

The Lehman Bros. sale revealed two types of sentimentalism driving the market. Firstly, there is the sentimentality being exhibited by those investors and collectors whose unpleasant experience of the contemporary art market correction has evoked a highly nostalgic response that seeks the safety and stability of the historically familiar. Secondly, there is the sentimentality being exhibited by more optimistic collectors and investors who see events such as the collapse of Lehman Bros. as historically significant events, albeit significant in a negative way, that offer the potentially profitable opportunity to acquire a souvenir of the event to be sold some time in the future. The successful sale of the Lehman Bros. signs, and the popularity of works from the Lehman Bros. collection that were by more established artists with proven track records, is evidence of both forms of sentimentalism.

Although the runaway train that was the contemporary art market has now well and truly been run off the rails, the wounds of the fall from grace that the contemporary art market experienced are only just beginning to heal. In the absence of the superficial and short lived pleasures that the contemporary art market provided, and with memories of the correction still fresh in their minds, collectors and investors appear to be seeking solace in the familiarity and safety of the past. It is important to note that not all contemporary artists have been completely abandoned; however, the focus has shifted from freshly created works by emerging talent to more classic and historically important works by the doyens of the contemporary art world – the classic contemporary if you like. In other words, when I refer to a focus on the past, I am referring to the recent past as well as the distant past.

The recent major auctions of Asian art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s are a good example of the focus on classic antiquarian objects as well as the classic contemporary with buyers paying well above the odds for works considered to be historically significant and museum worthy. With regards to the wider Asian art market, there has been a noticeable process of maturation that has been taking place over the last year or so. This maturation has seen collectors and investors develop a more considered and connoisseurial approach to the art market. According to a spokesperson from Sotheby’s regarding the recent Asia week sales “The market is getting mature and we can see the results. Collectors want important historical works from big artists”. Another Sotheby’s expert, Kevin Ching (Sotheby’s CEO in Asia), mentioned in a press release that “Along with Asia’s growing wealth is a hunger for collecting and owning great art that is broader and deeper than ever before. There is also a healthy and growing awareness that the experience of collecting requires an investment of passion that can pay great aesthetic dividends”

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