The Spectacle of the Art Market Pt. 2 –

The Spectacle of the Art Market Pt. 2 –

If you read my last post (which is the introduction to this post) then you may be asking yourself whether art market trends can really be dictated to a certain extent by such a simple and primitive human instinct.  The evidence that I have come across suggests that it can.  In fact, a recent study linked the human attraction to shiny objects with a primitively instinctual attraction to, and desire for, sources of water.  I would would like to believe that my decision to purchase a work of art is primarily based on some highly complicated thought process or a  highly developed taste for art and sense of style, and not on some primite instinct that we really don’t understand or have any control over.  But we are all only human after all.  And humans are highly complex and emotional creatures who are susceptible to those emotions that make us human.  When you think about it, it is really not that bizarre to suggest that art market trends can be dictated by an instinctually emotion judgement as opposed to a complex process of reasoning.

Charles Saatchi is the undoubtedly the quintessential purveyor of shiny objects and is known to be particularly fond of highly visual, high impact works of art such as those produced by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst who are both products of the Saatchi empire. Therefore, if I was going to use anyone as an example of the human attraction to bright,  shiny works of art then it would have to be Saatchi.  Interesting, it is a well known fact that Charles Saatchi is NOT so keen on photography or video art.  Why is this interesting I hear you ask? Well,  of all the different mediums that come under the banner of art it would have to be photography and film that are the least likely to incorporate the bright and shiny elements that are present in the type of works that I have been referring to.  Bright colours and shiny elements are usually absent from video and photographic works of art thus making these two mediums less likely to evoke that instinctual attraction that humans have to bright and shiny objects.  Video art in particular is a medium that cannot rely on high impact, instantly attractive elements to engage viewers.  To appreciate and interact with a work of video art usually requires that the viewer to spend a considerable amount of time watching the video and thinking about what is happening.

When it comes to the impact that instinct and emotion can have on the art market it is interesting to compare the current art market buying trends with the state of the global financial sector.  As I said in my last post,  one of the interesting trends that has been particularly noticable during the recent current art market correction is that works that have less visual impact and are not as flamboyant are experiencing competitive bidding and high prices.  This trend is the opposite to the popularity of high impact, bright and shiny works of art that was evident during the playful and heady days of the art market boom when the global economic outlook was far more positive.  Just a coincidence?  I don’t think it is.  To me it would make sense that people would purchase works of art that coincide with their state of mind and the emotions produced by the circumstance that they are in at the time.

There have been studies that show that different types of perfume are purchased according to the state of the economy.  A recent article featured in the Financial Times ‘How to Spend it’ magazine mentioned  that “floral fragrances – the safest, least challenging perfume category – have historically flourished in a recession”.  In his book ‘Why Yesterday Tells of Tomorrow: How the long waves of the economy help us determine tomorrows trends’ of 2001, Helmut Gaus used womens fashion trends as an example of anxiety and functional anxiety-driven behaviour.  According to the statistics compiled by Gaus, during periods of high anxiety women wear fewer patterns, darker colours, clothes with lower necklines and skirts that are longer.  During periods of less anxiety women wear more patterns, brighter colours, clothes with higher necklines and skirts that are shorter.  From these two sets of data it seems that during periods of high anxiety the less complicated, less flamboyant and less colourful become more popular and the reverse during periods of less anxiety when times are good.  I see no reason why the art market shouldn’t experience a similar trend.

to be continued……….

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


Danger of Careless Art Market Talk –

Danger of Careless Art Market Talk –

A Sotheby’s auction here in Australia on the 26th of August did not go as well as was anticipated with just less than half of the works selling and a final sales figure of AUD$5.77 million without buyers premium against an estimate of $9-$12 million. According to an article in the Australian newspaper, Georgina Pemberton, Sotheby’s head of paintings, described last night’s result as “a reflection of our economic climate and we are now going through a correction in the art market” After making this comment to the Australian newspaper, Georgina then went on to make the following comment regarding the auction to Bloomberg news “Some of the collectors are becoming more conservative, but overall the art market is still very strong”. Hmmm, seems like someone doesn’t know whether they are coming or going.

Other than the fact that these two statements contradict themselves, stating that the market is currently experiencing a correction that is seemingly based on this one sale is rather silly. A market correction is generally understood to mean a drop of between 10% and 20% in a financial market over a short period of time which would require a general market downward trend. Taking into consideration that there has been very little indication that the market is losing strength other than the Sotheby’s auction and that there are no figures relating to the definition of a market correction to back this statement up, to state that the market is experiencing a correction is very premature and at this point, incorrect.

Further evidence that the market is not in a correction came from an auction that took place the next evening by Bonhams and Goodman which experienced a far different result to Sothebys. According to the Bonhams and Goodman website “Record numbers had inspected the paintings at viewings in Sydney and Melbourne, with over 1500 people attending the auction venues, 30% up on the numbers for April. On auction night 250 people packed the Prahran saleroom to see Masterpieces of Australian Art from The Julian & Miriam Sterling Collection sell for $1,976,000 (including buyer’s premium), well over the lower estimate published in the catalogue. The sale of the Australian Fine Art catalogue contributed another $3 million to the result. ” Geoffrey Smith, Director & National Head of Art at Bonhams and Goodman went on to comment that “It was our most successful sale ever.” In total $4.9 million of art was sold against a lower estimate of $3.6 million although interestingly, only 49% of works sold which was the same percentage of works that sold at the Sotheby’s auction. What these results do show is that people are paying more money for the best works and that, although the sale rates may give the appearance of a correction, an proper analysis of the whole market points to more of a market transformation (ie. a change in buying trends and habits as opposed to a down-turn)

Another telling indication that the problem may be with Sotheby’s and not the market is the fact that only around 150 reportedly turned up at the Sotheby’s auction compared with 250 at the Bonhams and Goodman auction. With several more important art auction scheduled in Australia over the coming weeks it will be interesting to see what the results will be.

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

Damien Hirst Screws Himself –

Damien Hirst Screws Himself –

On the 15th and 16th of September a total of 223 previously unsold works by Damien Hirst will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s. The collection consists mainly of different versions of Hirst’s most iconic concepts including versions of his spot paintings, spin paintings, butterfly paintings, medicine cabinets, formaldehyde works and photo realist paintings.

In continuation from my previous post on this auction I have conducted some further research on Damien Hirst and the market for his work which resulted in some rather interesting results. The online art auction result database lists a total of 1013 Damien Hirst works sold at auction since 1992, 169 of which were auctioned in 2007 which means that the Sotheby’s auction of 223 Damien Hirst works will account for more than a years worth of auction results. Comparatively, Jeff Koons, who is 10 years Damien’s senior, only has 524 auction recorded auction results since 1991.

The fact that Hirst has made the decision to sell at auction partly because the commission rates charged by an auction house are lower than those charged by most galleries suggests that his motivation is mostly, if not purely, financial. Although the demand for Hirst’s work is very high there are already plenty of works on the market due to the huge number of works that Hirst produces. This makes me wonder how many people will be buying from this auction purely because of the nature of the sale as opposed to the quality, price or attraction of the work on offer. I would say probably lots. If there are lots of people buying purely as a result of the nature of the sale then this could result in people buying works from this auction at inflated prices created by a false perception of scarcity and immediacy created by Sothebys when in fact there are already plenty of Hirst works available for sale elsewhere.

There are basically two different outcomes for this auction both of which I perceive as being potentially detrimental to Hirst’s career. Firstly, a successful sale where a majority of the works are sold for above estimate will result in a glut of Damien Hirst works being thrust onto the market which could well result in the demand and desirability Hirst’s work to drop due to the availability of works increasing dramatically. The effect that the sale of these works will have on the market for Hirst’s work depends on how many people are purchasing with the intention of on-selling within a short period of time. Scenario number two is that the sale goes terribly which would of course result in Hirst’s reputation and value dropping.

To be continued….

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

Oz Artist Resale Royalty Boost –

Oz Artist Resale Royalty Boost –

For those who regular readers of my blog, you will be aware that I am an Australian and that I am a strong supporter of the implementation of an artist’s resale right in Australia. Just because the current Australian government made the decision to introduce a resale royalty scheme does not mean that the whole resale royalty saga is over. All that the Australian government has done is made the promise to implement a resale royalty, they have not said when it will be implemented or what model will be implemented. There are many different resale royalty model options that the government could choose to implement some of which are downright ridiculous and potentially ineffective.

On Friday an announcement was made that will be signal a major boost to the Australian art world with a press release being made public announcing that Joanna Cave, CEO of the UK’s primary copyright and collecting society for artists and visual creators DACS (Design and Artists Copyright Society), will be moving to Australian in January 2009. Joanna will be moving to Australia to take up the position of CEO of Australia’s copyright and collecting society for artists and visual creators and sister society of DACS, Viscopy. What makes this announcement so exciting is that Joanna Cave is probably the world’s most knowledgeable and experienced person on the resale right for visual artists having successfully implemented the resale right in the UK. Now that such an influential person will be coming to Australia there is a much better chance that the resale right model that is implemented will be the most effective and managable model. There is also now a much better chance that the resale right will be implemented smoothly, effectively and with the smallest amount of disruption due to the experience, knowledge and wisdom of Joanna cave.

See the press release from DACS below.

Design and Artists Copyright Society

News release

22 August 2008


DACS’ Board of Directors today announced the resignation of Chief Executive Joanna Cave after eight years of dynamic leadership.

During that time, DACS (the Design and Artists Copyright Society) has changed in both size and profile, and now enjoys a strong reputation among artists whilst generating almost £9 million annually through its three rights management services.

Most recently, Joanna led the campaign for the Artist’s Resale Right in the UK – against fierce opposition in some quarters – which culminated in the government introducing legislation that delivers genuine benefit to artists without harming the market for art.

Since 2006, DACS has collected £6.3 million in resale royalties for over 1500 artists and DACS’ service is recognised as the best in the world.

DACS Chair Andrew Potter says: ‘Many thousands of artists, designers and photographers have every reason to be grateful to Joanna for her hard-won achievements on their behalf. She leaves DACS in great shape, doing a brilliant job on behalf of its members. I, the Board and everyone at DACS will miss her greatly, both professionally and personally. Everyone who works with Jo holds her in the highest regard.’

It is the success of the UK Resale Right campaign that has led Joanna to her next challenge, spearheading the campaign for the Artist’s Resale Right in Australia and New Zealand.

Michael Keighery, Chair of DACS’s equivalent organisation, VISCOPY, in Sydney, says: ‘Jo has been a tireless advocate for artists in the UK and on the international stage. Under her leadership Australian and New Zealand artists can look forward to VISCOPY championing their rights with great commitment and energy.’

Joanna says: ‘It’s a privilege to have been part of the DACS success story and leaving after eight happy years is going to be a wrench. But I am excited about the opportunity to work on behalf of artists in Australia and New Zealand. The Artist’s Resale Right is hugely important not least for indigenous artists, many of whom continue to be poorly rewarded for their work, despite its current popularity throughout the world’.

Joanna Cave will take up her new post in Australia in January 2009. DACS has commenced its search for her successor. Details of the vacancy will be available on

For further information, please call Joanne Milmoe on 020 7336 8811.

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

Indian Art Fair and Summit 08 –

Indian Art Fair and Summit 08 –

Today marks the start of the Indian Art Summit, India’s modern and contemporary art fair, which is taking place from the 22nd to the 24th of August. According to the Indian Art Summit website ( the “India Art Summit™ 2008 has received an overwhelming response with over 90 applications from galleries and art businesses. The art fair will house 34 of the best exhibitiors of Indian art representing over 12 regions from India & overseas. The India Art Summit™ will therefore showcase the most diverse range of modern and contemporary paintings, sculpture, photography, mix media, prints, drawings and video art by veterans and upcoming artists from across the country. The 3 days in August will see the largest congregation of art collectors, a new wave of investors and art lovers from different geographies.”

It is no secret that the market for contemporary Indian art is red hot but you may be surprised to learn that an Australian gallery was partly responsible for one of the first major international touring shows of contemporary Indian. The exhibition, titled “Edge of desire: recent art in India”, was a joint initiative of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Asia Society in New York that, according to the exhibition catalogue, captured “the breadth and depth of practice in India and demonstrated why Indian art today plays such a vital role in the current international art scene. The first stop for the traveling exhibition was the Art Gallery of Western Australia from the 25 Sept 2004 – 9 January 2005 after which the exhibition moved to the United States where it was shown at the Asia Society and Museum from March 1 – June 5, 2005 and then the Queens Museum of Art from February 27 – June 5, 2005.

The fact that Australian’s have shown such an interest in Indian art is not that surprising when you consider between similarities between Australia’s beloved Aboriginal art and Indian art. Both cultures, for instance, have extremely old and unique visual and pictoral traditions that are key components in the visual representation and expression of various components of their culture with a particular focus on spiritual and religious beliefs. Both cultures have also experienced, and continue to experience, a sort of identity crisis at the heart of which is a struggle to maintain and preserve their traditions in a rapidly developing and progressing world. This struggle between tradition and contemporary society is often played out on canvas with many Australian Aboriginal and Indian artists having adapted the traditional visual representation of their social values, spiritual beliefs and cultural practices to the modern mediums of video, photography and installation. Many of Australia’s indigenous artists also use art as an expression of the trials and tribulations that a relatively unchanged ancient culture have faced, and continue to face, in a rapidly changing environment – just as many contemporary Indian artists do.

As an art collector and investor whose latest purchase was a print by the fantastic Indian artist Manjunath Kamath, I can tell you now that I will be continuing to expand my collection of contemporary Indian for as long as contemporary Indian artists continue to produce such amazing work.

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

Hirst Art Auction Reality Part 1 –

Hirst Art Auction Reality Part 1 –

The upcoming auction of new works by Damien Hirst to be conducted by Sotheby’s (see here) has generated a huge amount of hype that is sure to result in a packed saleroom and at least a few major results. According to the Sotheby’s website the auction, which has been given the rather romantic title “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”, is “a major auction of works by Damien Hirst, [that] will include an important series of new pieces which have been created over the past two years, including monumental formaldehyde sculptures; paintings which expand on the artist’s classic themes such as butterflies, cancer cells and pills; exquisite new cabinets and insightful preparatory drawings.”

Ok, now that all that is out of the way, it is time for a reality check. I have identified many potential problems with this auction, the first being the fact that versions of many of the works being offered at the auction have already been sold at auction. It is no secret that Hirst gets as much mileage from each “theme” as he can, producing multiple versions of many of his works such as the spin paintings and butterfly paintings, which presents a conundrum for those planning on purchasing a version of such a work from the auction. Because of the hype surrounding the sale of these works it is quite likely that high prices will be paid for the works being auctioned. The conundrum is, is it worth paying more for one of the works from this auction considering that it is quite likely that a very similar work will be available for sale at a lower price elsewhere? . As far as I can see the answer is no because once the hype is over the buyers are potentially going to be left with a work of art similar to other works on the market except for the fact that they paid more for theirs.  And personally, I don’t see the fact that these works were part of a “landmark” auction as being enough to justify a higher value. For those of you thinking that people won’t pay more for a work of art just because it is being sold at a landmark auction event or because they don’t want the other ten people bidding for the work to have it, think again

Savvy investors and collectors would be better off purchasing a version of the works being offered at the Sotheby’s auction from elsewhere before the auction takes place to take advantage of the increase in price that the auction is likely to generate for Hirst’s work. Be warned though, that any price increase as a result of the auction may only last for a short period of time so to take advantage of the price increase may require any works purchased to be sold relatively soon after purchase. To be continued…


Beautiful Helios Hysteria Intense Painting
(with Extra Inner Beauty) (lot 227, Afternoon Sale)
household gloss on canvas
diameter: 45.7cm.
executed in 2008
estimate: £ 60,000-80,000
€ 76,000-102,000
US$ 119,000-158,000

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

Affordable Investment Art 12 –

Affordable Investment Art August 19 –

In 2007 Britain’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) launched a new project called All Tomorrow’s Pictures in conjunction Sony Ericsson which involves a number of high profile artists using the state-of-the-art Cyber-shot TM mobile phone manufactured by Sony Ericsson to produce an image which has been made available to purchase as a limited edition print. The All Tomorrow’s Pictures project was launched as a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Institute of Contemporary Art which was first established in 1947 by a group of artists, poets and writers as a meeting point for exploration between artists and audiences. According to the ICA website: “since its establishment, it (the ICA) has been at the centre of many of the most significant artistic and cultural developments in the past 60 years. It has also introduced numerous artists, performers, writers and other cultural figures to a wider audience, both nationally and internationally.”

In total, 60 artists contributed images to the All Tomorrow’s Pictures 59 of whom were high profile artists invited by the ICA with the 50th artist selected from submissions by the public through an online competition. Each artist was invited to produce a single image or series of images inspired by the theme of ‘Tomorrow’ – using the Sony Ericsson K800i – a state-of-the-art Cyber-shot TM mobile phone. The ICA describes the project as a “pioneering venture [that] aims to highlight the creative potential of fusing art and technology and present a searing vision of the future as imagined through the eyes of some of our most influential and creative talent”. Highly desirable artists such as Idris Khan, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Sue Webster and Tim Noble, Tracey Emin and many others created works for the project each of which were produced in a limited edition of ten which range in price from 250 pounds to 350 pounds.

This unique project has resulted in some fantastic images, many of which have sold out, by a range of awesome artists that have been released as a very limited edition of affordable and good sized (A3) prints that can only be described as extremely good value for money. To see the full range of prints available go here:

image: Idris Khan, A Memory of Lampposts
A3 print on inkjet photo satin paper. Printed with long term pigmented inks.

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