Fixing the Contemporary Art Auction Crisis Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

Fixing the Contemporary Art Auction Crisis Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

In my last post I detailed two definitions of contemporary art from two different contemporary art museums that challenge the rather inadequate and misleading definition of contemporary art that many auction houses seem to abide by.  Even though I had found two good museum definitions of contemporary art, I continued my search to see what else I could find.  And I am glad I did continue searching because I came across a particularly interesting definition of contemporary art provided by the Tate Museum.  According to the Tate, contemporary art is a:

“Term loosely used to denote art of the present day and of the relatively recent past, of an innovatory or avant-garde nature. In relation to contemporary art museums, the date of origin for the term contemporary art varies. The Institute of Contemporary Art in London, founded in 1947, champions art from that year onwards. Whereas The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York chooses the later date of 1977. In the 1980s, Tate planned a Museum of Contemporary Art in which contemporary art was defined as art of the past ten years on a rolling basis”.

This definition is somewhat misleading because it lists the date range of two Contemporary art museums, the Institute of Contemporary Art in London and the The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, as though these museums define contemporary art by these date ranges.  What I found was that the beginning of the date range of works in the collections of both these museums is in fact the year that each museum was founded.  So, the Museum is not defining contemporary art as work produced from the year each museum was founded, but is in fact just maintaining a collection that is partly historical and archival even though their focus is on work that is new and experimental.  What interested me most about the Tate definition of Contemporary art is the revelation that “In the 1980s, Tate planned a Museum of Contemporary Art in which contemporary art was defined as art of the past ten years on a rolling basis”.  I personally think that this definition of contemporary art is the most accurate and sensible that I have come across and is the definition of contemporary art that the art auction houses should be abiding by.  Continuing with the museum definition theme, I think that the Getty museum provides one of the most blunt and profound definitions of contemporary art on their website which states that “Strictly speaking, the term “contemporary art” refers to art made and produced by artists living today”.  Here, Here !!!.

So, what does this mean for the art market, I hear you ask.  Well, let’s take a look at the results of a recent contemporary art auction held by an auction house that I will not be naming.  The reason I am not going to name the auction house is that there is not just one auction house on which one can lay total blame for this problem.  I also have great respect for the major auction houses regardless of whether or not there are issues relating to the classification and categorisation of works of art.  Looking at the top ten prices paid for this auction, which was promoted as a contemporary art auction, there were eight artists whose work was included in this top ten. The eight artists were Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg and Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Out of those eight artists, seven are dead – the only surviving artist out of the eight being Gerhard Richter.  Even more interesting are the dates that each of the top ten works were created:  1962, 1955, 1962, 1985, 1966, 1992, 1969, 1962, 1986 and 1987.  Six of the works were created prior to 1970, three prior to 1990 and only one after 1990.  The most recent work in the top ten was a work by Gerhard Richter, the only living artist in the top ten, which was created in 1992.  Of all the works in the top ten, the Richter would be the only one that I would consider referring to as a work of contemporary art – only at a stretch, mind you.

Although the top ten prices paid were dominated by the work of deceased artists, I must acknowledge that the auction did include works by true living contemporary practising artists.  Unfortunately the auction house uses the ridiculous misnomer ‘recent contemporary artists’ when referring to the work of the true contemporary artists.  By definition, something that is ‘contemporary’ is recent so to make reference to ‘recent contemporary artists’ is just plain wrong.  The fact that this term has to be used at all is, in my opinion, evidence enough that there is something amiss with the way some auction houses are cataloguing, categorising and presenting the works of art that they are selling.  If you don’t think that this is a big problem in the scheme of things then I respect that and even admit that you may be right.  But for me, this is the straw the broke the camel’s back; just another seemingly small problem that when added to the other seemingly small problems equal a rather big problem.  I do have some plans to combat all these small problems but you will have to wait to find out what my plans are.

image: ‘The Art Crisis’ by Robert The

**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

Fixing the Contemporary Art Auction Crisis Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

Fixing the Contemporary Art Auction Crisis Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

So, my last post on the issues surrounding the definition of contemporary art and the classification of works of art by auction houses created quite a storm – and rightly so. If you are still wondering why I have such an issue with the way some auctions houses categorise the works they are selling, then perhaps what I am about to show you will provide some enlightenment. The definition of contemporary art, in the context of the art market, has seemingly become redundant due to years of misuse and abuse. Although I acknowledge that the definition of contemporary art has remained open to interpretation to some extent, some auction houses appear to be taking liberties when it comes to categorising works for auction. Since the art market appears to function according to a corrupted definition of contemporary art, I decided to turn to cultural sector to see what the museum world had to say on the subject.

When it comes to making decisions regarding the classification and categorisation of works of art it is the cultural sector that generally has the final word, so I was hoping the cultural sector would provide something insightful. What I found was insightful indeed. To begin my search I went to the website of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located in my home town of Sydney, Australia, and is a favourite haunt of mine. The Sydney MCA website says: “Contemporary art can be defined in several ways: art which is of this time; art which is recent, new or existing now; or art which follows modern ideas or fashions in style and design. It can also refer to museum collections from 1970s onwards”. So, the Sydney MCA defines Contemporary art as both recent and as an era that began in the 1970’s. The next museum definition I found was provided by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art whose website said: “Contemporary art had its beginnings in the early 1970s, resulting in part from a general challenge to the authority of state and cultural institutions dominated by men and exclusivist policies. Contemporary art, also identified with the term postmodernist art, has been in many ways a continuation of the ideals of modern art—its themes, styles, and, most importantly, the concept of the work of art as private expression”. Again, the MMOCA defines contemporary art as a sort of era that began in the 1970’s.

Now, before I continue on I want to make it clear that I am not agreeing with the above definitions of Contemporary art provided by the museums. I do, however, acknowledge that a museum devoted to contemporary art requires a relatively broad definition of contemporary art due to the fact that a museum’s collection needs to have a relatively long shelf life. If a contemporary art museum were to focus purely on current art, they would have to constantly update the collection, which would be an extremely expensive and time consuming task. At the present time I can understand the reasoning behind the decision by Contemporary art museums to begin what could be termed the “Contemporary era” in the 1970’s, as both Conceptual art and Digital art – both of which continue to have a strong influence on current artistic practice – came to prominence in the early 1970’s.

To be continued………….

image: ‘4 the Love of Go(l)d’ sculpture by Eugenio Merino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 4 -artmarketblog.com

A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 4 -artmarketblog.com

It has been said before that nostalgia prospers during recessionary times so, considering that the western world has just begun to recover from a major recessionary period, it would make sense that the art market is trending towards a focus on the nostalgic and sentimental.  The length of time that this era of sentimentality and nostalgia will last is anyone’s guess, but given that the boom lasted longer than most expected, the recovery time for the contemporary sector of the market could be just as long – except that it probably won’t be.  It would be nice to be able to report that the saying ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ applies to the contemporary art market but, unfortunately, there are signs that the next puppets are already being groomed in preparation for the next inevitable contemporary cozenage.  The only question is how long it will take for the art market to once again become hypnotised by the glitz and glamour of the consumerist contemporary art regime.  In the mean time, it is great to see a level of intimacy, passion and involvement being brought back into the market that was conspicuously absent during the contemporary driven boom.

According to an article titled ‘Investors renew passion for modern masters’ ,which appeared in the Guardian newspaper, “When an alluring seated nude, La Belle Romaine, broke all records for a painting by the Italian artist Modigliani on Tuesday – selling for $69m (£42.7m) at auction in New York – the extraordinary price tag marked a historic moment in the art market. It shows that investors are turning back to the relative certainties of the modern masters and away from more risky contemporary art”.  This statement confirms that buyers are taking a much more cautious approach to the art market by buying works that they are more familiar with and have some sort of affinity with – a key characteristic of a sentimental art market era.  The care and thought that buyers are exhibiting when making purchases shows that they are seeking a much more intimate and passionate connection with the works of art that they are purchasing which is a trend that one would expect to see during a sentimental art market era.  Another key characteristic of this sentimental art market era is a sort of nationalistic sentimentalism that is likely to emerge as disillusioned collectors and investors who experienced the contemporary art market correction seek more genuine and justifiable reasons for purchasing works of art – reasons that provide a more fulfilling, intimate and involved art collecting experience as opposed to the cold and calculated commercialism that characterised the contemporary art market boom. Nationalistic sentimentalism can be defined as the purchase of works of art from one’s own country out of a sense of pride and sentimentality.

Both these characteristics allude to a market that is seeking a more intimate and involved connection with the works of art they are collecting or investing in.  I would expect that this trend will continue to develop throughout 2011 as the global art market attempts to heal the wounds that the emerging contemporary art market bubble inflicted.  This will be the last post on this topic for the time being unless any further corroborating indicators come to light.

**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 Spectacle of the Art Market Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

The Spectacle of the Art Market Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com

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 http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

Zoo Art Fair 09 Fails to Deliver – artmarketblog.com

Zoo Art Fair 09 Fails to Deliver – artmarketblog.com

12-zooartfair-jpgThis year’s Zoo art fair was a rather interesting event primarily because of the new venue which consisted of several disused Victorian warehouse buildings in London’s east end that were divided into three sections (Zones A, B and C). Unfortunately (in my opinion) Zoo were kicked out of their usual venue at the Royal Academy of Arts after London gallery Haunch of Venison leased the space. Zoo weren’t entirely to blame for the circumstances that they found themselves in and as much as I would like to say that they triumphed over adversity, they didn’t. It was obvious that Zoo were attempting to make the most of the venue and give an edgy feeling to the fair by taking on what Zoo called an “adapted structure”, but it ended up feeling and looking much more like a last resort structure. Another major hurdle that Zoo had to come up against was the reduction in the number applications to exhibit from commercial galleries which they remedied with the introduction of non-commercial curated exhibits. Having a mix of commercial and non-commercial exhibits was really the only solution that Zoo could have adopted so I don’t think that they deserve kudos for coming up with this idea. The inclusion of non-commercial curated exhibits was, never the less, a solution that worked.

When I arrived at the fair I was immediately reminded of the 2008 Sydney Biennale which used a bunch of disused prison and shipyard buildings (see here: http://www.bos2008.com/app/biennale/venue/3) on a small island on Sydney harbour as one of the venues. The difference is that the Sydney Biennale used the derelict spaces to great effect and matched the art to the spaces incredibly well, which made for an amazing experience that gave the impression that the art was part of the site. Perhaps my perception of Zoo was somewhat skewed by the awesome experience I had with the Sydney Biennale but I still think I would have been disappointed with Zoo regardless of whether I had attended the Sydney Biennale or not.

One of my biggest gripes is that were virtually name tags on the walls or any other sort of signage to identify who the works were by. Whether this was an attempt to make the art and the buildings feel more like one entity I do not know, but it ended up being just plain annoying and in no way encouraged people to buy anything. Another major issue I had with the fair was the poor layout of the film section which was located in Zone B. The films on show were relatively long which the cold and lack of seating made virtually impossible to view in their entirety without getting sore legs or risking frost bite. To be honest it wasn’t the venue that made Zoo a failure, it was the way the show was put together and executed. Zoo could have presented a great fair had they utilised the space to greater effect and put a bit more thought into the presentation of the art as well as a bit more effort into making the experience more comfortable for visitors.

The one saving grace for Zoo was the small number of artists whose work was absolutely phenomenal and worth braving the cold to see. My next post will profile the artists that I believe made Zoo worth visiting.

**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

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Surprises – artmarketblog.com

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Surprises – artmarketblog.com

Alexander Calder Ebony Sticks in Semi-Circle 1934 $3,498,500 Sotheby’s New York May 12, 2009

Alexander Calder Ebony Sticks in Semi-Circle 1934 $3,498,500 Sotheby’s New York May 12, 2009

I always find it interesting to look at the lots from a particular auction that achieved prices well in excess of expectations because I find you can tell a lot about market trends and the state of the market for particular types of work from this information. The recent May contemporary art auctions were especially important because of the impact that the global financial crisis and subsequent art market correction has had on the market for contemporary art. It is immediately evident from the results that buyers are paying less for works of art and spending less on average on works of art but this comes as no surprise as the market begins to adjust to the new reality of the market for art. Now that the market is showing signs of stability there is a new benchmark beginning to develop that we can use to track trends, assess auction results and determine what direction the art market is heading. I don’t think that the art market has quite finished finding it’s feet but judging by the recent auctions we are not far off.

Looking at the lots that exceeded expectations from the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening and Day sales that took place on the 12th and 13th of May can tell us several things about the market for contemporary art. First of all, buyers still have confidence in the work of the worlds top contemporary artists and are willing to pay good money for quality works by these artists within reason. Works valued up to the US$1,000,000 mark seem to be very popular at the moment with healthy competition for works and buyers appearing to be quite comfortable purchasing at this price range. Seven of the eight highest achieving works from Sotheby’s evening sale of more expensive works had high estimates under $1,000,000. Even more popular are original works of art with estimates up to the $100,000 with competition for the best works by the big names producing some great results. Seven of the eight highest achieving works (hammer price compared to estimate) from Sotheby’s day sale of lower priced works had high estimates under US$100,000. As you can see from the results below there was far more competition for less expensive works (under $100,000 especially) from Sotheby’s day sale than there was for more expensive works from the evening sale. It is also pleasing to see that works by up and coming contemporary artists are also seeing plenty of action provided that they are under the $100,000 mark.

Surprise Results from Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Auctions:

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction May 12

Lot 4: Andy Warhol ‘Kellogg’s Cornflakes [Los Angeles Type]
sinkscreen on plywood
Estimate: $200,000-$300,000
Hammer Price: $400,000

Lot 5: Dan Colen ‘Untitled (Blow Me)’
oil on canvas
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000
Hammer Price: $320,000

Lot 15: Alexander Calder ‘Ebony Sticks In Semi-Circle’
wood, steel and string standing mobile
Estimate: $1,000,000 – $1,500,000
Hammer Price: $3,050,000

Lot 25: Gerhard Richter ‘Mirror Painting (Blood Red)’
pigment on glass
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000
Hammer Price: $1,100,000

Lot 35: Richard Prince ‘Can You Imagine’
acrylic and silkscreen on canvas
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000
Hammer Price: $1,150,000

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction May 13

Lot 104: Alexander Calder ‘Untitled’
painted metal and wire standing mobile
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000
Hammer Price: $270,000

Lot 111: David Hockney ‘Aubergine’
pastel and colored pencil on paper
Estimate: $15,000-$20,000
Hammer Price: $39,000

Lot 119: Philip Guston ‘Untitled’
ink on paper
Estimate: $200,000 – $300,000
Hammer Price: $340,000

Lot 131: Alex Katz ‘Folding Chair’
oil on canvas
Estimate: $60,000-$80,000
Hammer Price: $120,000

Lot 158: Lucio Fontana ‘Concetto Spaziale Attese’
waterpaint on canvas
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000
Hammer Price: $220,000

Lot 162: Robert Mangold ‘Plane Figure Study A (Double Panel) Study
acrylic and black pencil on canvas
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000
Hammer Price: $250,000

Lot 173: Lee Ufan ‘From Line, No. 78154’
pigment suspended in glue, on canvas
Estimate: $50,000-$70,000
Hammer Price: $100,000

Lot 176: Elsworth Kelly ‘Light Green Panel’
painted aluminium
Estimate: $70,000 – $90,000
Hammer Price: $130,000

Lot 185: Andy Warhol ‘Untitled (Diamond Dust Shoes)’
acrylic and silkscreen on canvas
Estimate: $80,000 – $120,000
Hammer Price: $180,000

Lot 194: Andy Warhol ‘Camouflage’
silkscreen on paper
Estimate: $12,000 – $18,000
Hammer Price: $32,000

Lot 198: Andy Warhol ‘Look Years Younger’
graphite on sketchbook paper
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
Hammer Price: $34,000

Lot 203: Andy Warhol ‘Detail of the Last Supper’
synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
Estimate: $80,000-$120,000
Hammer Price: $180,000

Lot 209: Tom Wesselmann ‘Upside Down Blue Nude #2’
oil on canvas
Estimate: $220,000-$280,000
Hammer Price: $340,000

Lot 230: Neil Jenney ‘Saw and Sawed’
acrylic and graphite on canvas in artist’s frame
Estimate: $180,000-$250,000
Hammer Price: $420,000

Lot 305: Jr ‘Favela’
chromogenic print on metallic paper mounted on aluminum
Estimate: $10,000-$12,000
Hammer Price: $20,000

Lot 339: Damien Hirst ‘N-T Boc-L-Alanine N-Hydro Ester’
household gloss on canvas
Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
Hammer Price: $42,000

Lot 364: Makoto Saito ‘Portrait of Laurence (Recognition)’
acrylic and oil ink on canvas mounted on wood
Estimate: $150,000-$200,000
Hammer Price: $280,000

Lot 400: William Kentridge ‘Anamorphic Drawing’
charcoal on paper in Plexiglas box, stainless steel cylinder on steel support
Estimate: $15,000-$20,000
Hammer Price: $26,000

Lot 428: John Currin ‘The Living Room’
ink and watercolor on paper
Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
Hammer Price:$60,000

Lot 450: Barbara Kruger ‘Untitled (Open Wide)’
photographic silkscreen ink on vinyl
Estimate: $50,000-$70,000
Hammer Price: $120,000

Lot 451: Barbara Kruger ‘Untitled (We Are Transformed Into Special Effects)’
unique photographic montage in red painted artist’s frame
Estimate: $60,000-$80,000
Hammer Price: $110,000

**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.

Sotheby’s May 2009 NY Contemporary Art Sale – artmarketblog.com

Sotheby’s May 2009 NY Contemporary Art Sale – artmarketblog.com

 MARTIN KIPPENBERGER 1953 - 1997 UNTITLED  3,500,000—4,500,000 USD

MARTIN KIPPENBERGER 1953 - 1997 UNTITLED 3,500,000—4,500,000 USD

Sotheby’s 12 May 2009 New York Contemporary Art Evening Sale bought in a total of $40,080,000 (hammer price) against a mid estimate of $62375000 which reflects the continuing decline in the value and desirability of contemporary art. A total of 39 works sold from the small catalogue of 49 works which gave Sotheby’s a respectable 80% clearance rate for the sale. Despite the good clearance rate results were mixed with seven works selling for above their high estimate, twenty within their estimate and twelve below their estimate.

The top performing lots were Alexander Calder’s ‘Ebony Sticks in Semi-Circle’ which sold for $3,050,000 against an estimate of $1,000,000-$1,500,000, Dan Colen’s ‘Untitled (Blow Me) which sold for $320,000 against an estimate of $100,000-$150,000 and Richard Prince’s ‘Can You Imagine’ which sold for $1,150,000 against an estimate of $600,000-$800,000. The most expensive work was Jeff Koons ‘Baroque Egg with Bow’ which failed to break the low estimate selling for $4,800,000 against an estimate of $6,000,000 – $8,000,000 followed by the cover lot, Martin Kippenberger’s ‘Untitled’, which scraped in just above the low estimate selling for $3,600,000.

The biggest disappointments of the auction were Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Transom’ which failed to sell with a $4,000,000 – $6,000,000, Robert Godber’s ‘Untitled’ which failed to find a buyer with a $2,500,000 – $3,500,000 and Richard Diebenkorn’s ‘Cane Chair-Outside’ which remained unsold with a $1,800,000 – $2,500,000 estimate. The total value of the 10 works that failed to sell was $11,450,000 which contributed significantly to the mediocre result. Of the 39 lots that sold, the average price was $1,027,692.

Considering that Sotheby’s 2008 May Contemporary Art Auction bought in a total of $320,640,000 (hammer price) for 85 lots, the 2009 result looks ridiculously low in comparison. An average price for the 2008 auction of $3,777,2235 compared with the average price of $1,027,692 for the 2009 auction shows that the prices people are willing to pay for contemporary art have dropped dramatically. In fact, the closest results to the 2009 auction come from the 2004 auction where a total of 60 works sold for 65,670,400 USD with the highest price paid for a work being $5,104,000 (including premium) for Lichtenstein’s ‘Step-On Can with Leg’ and the average price paid for a work turning out to be 1,094,506.

**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.

Adam Reeder and Pan’s Ipod – artmarketblog.com

Adam Reeder and Pan’s Ipod  – artmarketblog.com

"Pan with his Ipod"

"Pan with his Ipod"

If I am going to be honest I have never really been a big fan of classical figurative sculpture but after being introduced to the work of California based artist Adam Reeder I may have rethink my position. Judging by the pictures on his website, Reeder is a very accomplished artist with a particular talent for classical style sculpture and drawing but it is his most recent project titled “Socio-Technic Evolution” that really caught my attention. As you would expect, classical themes and subjects are an integral part of Reeder’s artistic practice but with his latest series he has taken the conventions of classical sculpture and added a 21st century twist. “Sleeping Gamer”, “Atlas With his iPhone” and “Pan With His iPod” are the titles of a few of the sculptures that are part of the “Socio-Technic Evolution” series which, as the titles suggest, are no ordinary classical figures.

I was so impressed by the “Socio-Technic Evolution” series that I thought that I would ask Adam to explain the concept behind these works and how he came up with the idea.

This is what Adam has to say about his work:

They are all based on the concept of how technology changes the way western culture interacts with it’s world. To display this, I have combined technological objects with Greco-Roman gods, or iconic Greek sculpture. This is because the Greco-Roman period is the root of western civilization. My work is not about the change that takes place but the change in interaction, facilitated by technology.

Pan with his mp3 player is the first in the series. It has won first place in the spring show at the San Francisco Academy of art university, as well as getting into other shows. My goal was to combine iconic Grecian images, and god’s with well known technological objects. The Grecian images and god’s were to represent western culture. The Greco-Roman empires are known as the root of western culture. I avoided using anything from the Cartesian time periods so as to keep the religious contexts out of the discourse.

The technological objects should change the context of the original image, but not the nature. Arguably, any change could change the nature of it. However, my thought was that the nature of the interaction between the image and the object, would not change the way the image would have originally interacted. I used Pan with his mp3 player as the example for my final proposal. The Greek god Pan, used a flute which he played in the wood and danced with nymphs. My depiction shows Pan, still dancing as before, but no longer playing his own music. Thus, the technology changes the context, but not the nature.

This work is not about consumerism, or commercialism. Rather it is about how technology changes the way in which Western culture interacts with it’s world. This body of work should remind the viewer of pop art, because pop art showed viewers what they were consuming in popular culture. It should also feel like an ad campaign.I like the fact that the initial reaction upon viewing (even for me) is, “oh great, another classic figure”, then upon closer inspection, the viewer recognizes these iconic technological objects and it all comes together.

I have seen that process happen in the eyes of viewers, and have been told about it from museum directors, gallery owners, exhibition organizers, and art agents. This thesis stemmed from an internal reaction I had to my 6 year old daughter’s request for an iPod for her birthday, as opposed to a Barbie, or easy bake oven. I became acutely aware at that moment, that technology was changing the way western culture interacts with its world.

To clarify, this is not a series of sculpture about a little girl, or about how I feel about the change which is taking place. My Thesis is simply a playful reflection of that change.

To see more of Adam’s work go to http://www.adamreeder.com

**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.

Catherine Opie at Side Street Projects – artmarketblog.com

Catherine Opie at Side Street Projects – artmarketblog.com

Catherine Opie Untitled (Side Street Projects' Mobile Headquarters) (2008)

Catherine Opie "Untitled" (Side Street Projects' Mobile Headquarters) (2008)

Side Street Projects is an artist-run organization that helps visual artists negotiate the baffling terrain of the contemporary art world and provides art related youth education services. As part of their fundraising program Side Street projects are selling prints of works by some of the top contemporary artists including a work by the world renowned photographer Catherine Opie which can be viewed here: http://www.sidestreet.org/16/index.html

According to the sidestreet.org website: Arguably one of the most important living American photographers, Catherine Opie’s work is an ongoing investigation into the identity of contemporary America and its cities, communities, and people. The structure of urban and suburban space and how communities begin to form and the identities that surround these communities is the connective tissue found within her work. Opie’s work has always investigated the figure in relation to the landscape – she is an expert in both portrait and landscape and her work disregards the polarities typically found within these approaches. Opie’s work offers reflection upon the authority vested in photography to communicate specific group parameters within a society and conversely how images amplify human individualization.

Her acclaimed mid-career retrospective, Catherine Opie: American Photographer, is currently on exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York through January 7th, 2009. . She has been the subject of exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States. Recent solo exhibitions include Regen Projects, Los Angeles; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis; Photographers’ Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

>About This Print
The image is of the new mobile headquarters of Side Street Projects which consists of a pair of restored vintage travel trailers, manufactured by J. Paul Getty’s Spartan Aircraft Corporation which now house a wireless communication system which runs on a 3,000 watt solar energy array which is (of course) also on wheels. Side Street Projects recently refurbished these vintage travel trailers and turned them into their first-ever “permanent” facility.

Details of print:

Catherine Opie
Untitled (Side Street Projects’ Mobile Headquarters) (2008)
Archival Pigment Print (From a Digital Photo)
Archival Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Paper (20″ x 16”
Limited Edition of 50
$1,000 (CA residents add 8.25% tax)

There are only a couple of the Opie prints left so if you would like to purchase one visit http://www.sidestreet.org/16/index.html

There are also other works available which can be viewed here:
http://www.sidestreet.org/store/index.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.

Danger of Careless Art Market Talk – artmarketblog.com

Danger of Careless Art Market Talk – artmarketblog.com

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 http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

Damien Hirst Screws Himself – artmarketblog.com

Damien Hirst Screws Himself – artmarketblog.com

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 Artprice.com 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 http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications