The 2010 Art Market Review – artmarkeblog.com

The 2010 Art Market Review – artmarkeblog.com

2010 has been one of the most confusing, unpredictable and unexplainable years for me as an art market analyst. So many of the trends, events and fads that emerged during 2010 did not appear to be caused by the sort of conditions, have the same effects, or follow the same path of logic that one would expect they would given the way things have panned out in past years. This leaves me with no doubt that the art market is evolving at such a rapid pace that there is little point trying to justify or explain the events of today using logic that is based on the progression and events of previous years. In fact, more of the art market events that took place during 2010 appeared to defy logic than ever before. I do, however, strongly believe that one of the reasons that it has become even more difficult to determine what is going on with the art market is that the art market (auction houses in particular) has become adept at making the situation appear much better than it really is. Whether it be by skewing figures or manipulating the way results are perceived – galleries, fairs and auction houses have become the plastic surgeons of the art world.

What has also made 2010 such a hard year to analyse was the contraction, and slow regeneration, of the market for the work of trendy emerging artists and recent works by top contemporary artists – both of which are usually the most global, visible and publicised sectors of the market. As the market moves towards the work of artists with a proven track record, collectors and investors have shifted their focus from the usually dominant and globally relevant contemporary art market to the work of artists from a wide of variety of styles, mediums and movements that cannot appear to have very little in common. This has resulted in a situation where there is not one dominant global trend that art market analysts such as myself can focus on, but a number of smaller and disjointed trends that make reading the market particularly difficult.

A few months ago I wrote a series of posts on what I believed was a move towards a more sentimental art market, which appears to be exactly the direction that the market has headed. General disillusionment with the contemporary art market has sent many collectors and investors take a more sentimental approach to fine art that is characterised by a focus on the safety of more established artists and the familiarity of artists that they can relate to. When art collectors or investors seek safety and familiarity they are most likely to gravitate towards works by artists from the era and culture that they have the greatest connection to. This would explain the large number of seemingly unrelated trends that emerged during 2010 many of which involved previously unfashionable styles and movements that are distinctly associated with a particular era or culture.

There is no doubt that the art market has recovered far quicker than many people thought possible. Again, the unexpectedly rapid recovery has thrown a spanner in the works when it comes to analysing the art market and trying to make sense of what is going on. Some journalists and analysts have gone as far as to admit that they cannot explain how a market that seemed to be at breaking point could make such a rapid recovery. To give you an idea of how quickly the art market has recovered, in March of this year (2010) Walter Robinson, editor of Artnet Magazine, said that “Art Market Watch has been on something of a hiatus during the last few months. What with the recession, reporting on auction results just isn’t as compelling as it was during the boom years”. Six weeks later a painting by Picasso become the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when it fetched a staggering $106.5 million. A week after that an Andy Warhol self portrait sold at Sotheby’s for $32.6 million (more than twice the estimate) setting a new record for a Warhol self portrait at auction. Compelling enough?

When it comes to rationalising art market events there is much to be gained from knowing who has money to spend and how much they have to spend. The top end of the market is fuelled by super wealthy collectors whose level of wealth would not have been affected enough by the financial crisis to deter them from buying art. Therefore at the high end of the art market things have been pretty solid as is evident from the number of record auction prices set in 2010. The lower end of the market is fuelled by collectors who focus on edgy and trendy contemporary art by emerging and newly established artists, and who will usually have a high level of interest in the cultural and artistic side of fine art. Collectors at the lower end of the market are a very determined group who are always going to be around even if they appear a little less active at times. Things at the lower end have improved but have done so at a less than rapid pace which makes it difficult to judge where this sector of the market is heading. Without a doubt the sector of the art market that has suffered for the longest period of time due to the effects of the global financial crisis and the art market downturn is the middle market. The middle market includes lesser works by big name artists, and the more expensive (less justifiable) works by the trendy contemporary artists, which makes the middle market a sort of currently un-necessary compromise for the super rich, and a stretch too far for the modestly well off. Middle market works are, however, perfect for the financial advisor and hedge fund manager types who are more interested in art as a status symbol than the quality or art historical importance of the works they are buying. With the pay packets of hedge fund managers and financial advisors taking a massive hit due to the financial crisis, there is little interest in the middle market works. The super rich are still rich enough to not have to compromise and settle for middle market works and the modestly well off continue to fuel the lower end of the market.
My next post will be the top ten art market 2010 so stay tuned……..

**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

How to Avoid Dirty Art Auction Tricks – artmarketblog.com

How to Avoid Dirty Art Auction Tricks – artmarketblog.com

Having focused my last few posts on the issues surrounding the questionable practices of some art auction houses, I thought it important to let people know how they can avoid becoming a victim of dirty art auction tricks and tactics. The only real way to avoid becoming a victim of the art auction houses is to ask questions and to know which questions to ask.  Below is a list of questions, and the reasoning behind each question, that will ensure that you know exactly where you stand.

Seven questions every buyer should ask before bidding on a work of art:

1.       Does the auction house or anyone associated with the auction house have an ownership interest in the work of art I am thinking of purchasing?

(The reason you should ask this question is that if an auction house has an ownership interest in a work of art you should question whether this would have an effect on the way the auction house markets and presents the work of art in question – as well as the final price.  Auction houses are required to indicate in auction catalogues when they have an ownership interest in a work of art.)

2.       Is the auction house employee who is advising me on my purchases also representing the seller of the works they are advising me on?

(The reason you should ask this question is that it is not unknown for a specialist assigned to a particular client as an advisor to be representing the seller of the works they are advising the buyer to purchase.  If you are assigned an expert advisor by an auction house make sure they are not representing the seller of the particular works you are interested in.)

3.       Is there any doubt regarding the authenticity or provenance of the works of art I am interested in purchasing?

(The reason you need to ask this question is that auction houses are not always forthcoming with information regarding authenticity.  It is worth while making sure that you are getting what you are paying for.)

4.       Who has authenticated the works of art I am interested in purchasing, what qualifications do they have and what evidence was the authentication based on?

(The reason you need to ask this question is that auction houses have been known to justify the attribution they make using less than reliable information.)

5.       When were the works of art I am interested in purchasing last consigned to an auction and what was the result?

(The reason that you should ask this question is that auction houses are not always forthcoming with information regarding the consignment history of a work of art.  Auction houses have been known to sell the same work of art a number of times within a short period of time and not disclose this information to buyers.  It is important to know this information as it is likely there is reason that this has occurred.  It is also important to know this information because a work of art being passed in at auction can gain a stigma that can reduce the value.)

6.       Does the auction house allow the auctioneer to bid in his own sale?

(It should be obvious why one needs to ask this question, and yes, some auction houses to allow the auctioneer to bid on their own sale.)

7.       What is the condition of the works of art I am interested in purchasing and has a condition report been completed on each work?

(Auction houses are not always forthcoming with information regarding the condition of a work of art. It is generally expected that buyers will inspect a work of art themselves and will be aware of the condition of the work of art.  If you are not able to assess the condition of a work of art then hire an expert.)

**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



What Art Investors Can Learn from Gold Investors Pt. 5 – artmarketblog.com

What Art Investors Can Learn from Gold Investors Pt. 5 – artmarketblog.com

The reason that I finished my last post with a description of a possible economic and financial doomsday like scenario is because such an event would really expose how secure and how safe the various different methods of wealth creation and wealth preservation are. A large majority of the vehicles of wealth creation that we choose to invest our money are dependent on the continued stability of the cultural, social, monetary and economic systems that are currently in place (ie. share market, money market, bond market, currency market etc.). One of the most vulnerable stores of wealth that pretty much everyone has positions in is fiat currency, better known as money. The definition of a fiat currency is: state-issued money which is neither legally convertible to any other thing, nor fixed in value in terms of any objective standard. These days most national currencies are fiat currencies including the US dollar, the Euro and the UK Pound, which makes the currency of most countries very vulnerable. Not only would a currency collapse have a devastating effect on the price of goods, it would also cause any positions in an investment vehicle that is only redeemable in a fiat currency, and is not a tradeable commodity (ie. stock market, bond market etc.), to essentially become as valueless as the currency that the investment relies on. The 0nly way to protect one’s self from total devastation in the event of a currency collapse is to have physical positions in a tradeable commodity such as gold. Gold is an asset with inherent value that is also a tradeable commodity. According to an article in Time magazine: “Gold, then, can be considered a currency, unique in that it is not directly tied to any country’s economy. With a global recession that is bound to continue to shake up the purchasing power of all foreign currencies, gold is safer from political and economic instability than cash.”

So where does art fit in to all this?. As we all know, a major financial or economic crisis (or even a little one for that matter) can have a major negative effect on the art market, especially the speculative contemporary art market. Because the perceived investment potential of contemporary art relies heavily on the progression of the artist’s career, which in turn relies on the continued stability of the cultural, social, monetary and economic systems that are currently in place (like the share market), contemporary art is likely to be devalued to a much greater extent in the event of a major economic than the work of the old masters or the impressionists. According to Jim Morris of art and antiques firm Corfield Morris: ‘buyers of contemporary art may be disappointed with returns. He defines contemporary art as works produced by artists who are still alive. “The problem with buying contemporary works is that many of the artists don’t have track records,” said Morris. “I’m afraid an awful lot of it is not going to stand the test of time.”’ Contemporary art is therefore a very risky investment and is not a good store of wealth; contemporary art is essentially the fiat currency of the art world. The work of the Old Masters, the Impressionists and many of the modern masters are, however, a different story. As well as already having a market track record and an already established legacy, the work of the Old Masters, the Impressionists and many of the modern masters have the benefit of having been endowed with some or all of the inherent characteristics that have a quantifiable and qualifiable intrinsic value such as subject matter, style, technical complexity, historical documentation, artistic proficiency, etc. Although some people may disagree that art can have intrinsic value, I believe that the work of certain movements or periods can. Regardless of whether or not you agree that art can have inherent properties of intrinsic value, the fact remains that if the work of the Old Masters did not have intrinsic value, then the art objects would not have any value independent of any and all other factors, which they do. If a work of art in the style of an old master were to be sold as the work of an unknown artist from an unknown period and without any provenance, the art object would still have value even without all other associations and therefore must have intrinsic value. The reason that these inherent properties have a quantifiable and qualifiable value in the case of the work of the Old masters, the Impressionists and many of the modern masters is that there are usually other similar works with which one can make comparisons and judgements and thus determine the value of these inherent properties in relation to another similar work. Particularly in the case of the Old Masters there are often artistic and technical standards that can also assist in the valuation of the inherent physical characteristics of a work.

To be continued…….

Part 4:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/05/31/what-art-investors-can-learn-from-gold-investors-pt-4-artmarketblog-com/

Part 3:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/05/18/what-art-investors-can-learn-from-gold-investors-pt-3/

Part 2:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/05/07/what-art-investors-can-learn-from-gold-investors-part-2-artmarketblog-com/

Part 1:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/04/30/what-art-investors-can-learn-from-gold-investors-artmarketblog-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

The Spectacle of the Art Market Part 3 – artmarketblog.com

The Spectacle of the Art Market Part 3 – artmarketblog.com

Natalya Goncharova's Linen

I am sure that many of you would agree that it has become the norm for people to approach fine art as consumers instead of as scholars or connoisseurs. If you were to ask me whether there is anything wrong with this I would say that there definitely is. Don’t get me wrong, I am obviously a strong supporter of the art market, but also recognise the need for a balance between the commercial and the cultural. Without that balance the art market becomes unstable and the art world becomes too closely connected to the art market. Whether you realise it or not, the art market requires a certain level of “infiltration” by scholars and connoisseurs. It is the scholars and connoisseurs who add value to works of art by generating information and knowledge that make works of art historically and culturally more significant. It is this information that is generated by scholars and connoisseurs that we should be using to justify the dollar value of a work of art because this information is usually based on intrinsic characteristics of the work of art that cannot be disassociated from the work of art or become obsolete, and therefore encourage more stable long term values. The contemporary art market, on the other hand, often relies on factors that have very little to do with the work of art its self such as social status, economic status, popular trends and financial gain. These factors can become obsolete very quickly which usually means that the dollar value that these factors generated also disappears causing the sort of correction that we have just experienced.

In February of 2008 Nicholas Penny, the curator of the British National Gallery, made a statement that he was going to put an end to the gallery’s blockbuster exhibition days. According to an article in the Guardian Newspaper, Penny said “The responsibility of a major gallery is to show people something they haven’t seen before. A major national institution should be one that proves a constant attraction to the public. What is important is encouraging historical and visual curiosity in the general public.” Ralph T. Coe, the former director of the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo., a former president of the American Association of Art Museum Directors and a former chairman of the Museum Committee of the National Endowment for the Arts, put the problem in even simpler terms when he said: “One of the saddest things museum connoisseurs like me have had to observe is the substitution of entertainment values for the intrinsic values incarnate in great works of art that alone can confer aesthetic authenticity.” This problem of the substitution of entertainment values (the spectacle) for intrinsic values that the cultural sector is experiencing is also a big problem for the art market as I have shown above. We need to stop the spectacularisation of the contemporary art market if we want to have a more culturally and historically significant period of art production. I believe that we need to be asking the following question on a far more regular basis: in one hundred years time will this work be able to be exhibited in a museum, and will people consider the work to be culturally significant and be historically important?

**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. 1 – artmarketblog.com

The Spectacle of the Art Market Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

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. Works of art that would perhaps have been overshadowed by their more visually stunning siblings are now coming to the forefront as collectors and connoisseurs approach what is on offer from a more scholarly, connoisseurial and art historical perspective. I also believe that the more sombre mood caused by the financial crisis has made people less likely to purchase overtly cheerful works of art and more likely to obtain objects that reflect the more philosophical and reflective mood that many people are currently experiencing.

When the global economy has gone to the dogs, and a large number of people are in a financially difficult position, the purchase of those shiny works of art that are typically seen as status symbols and flamboyantly excessive trophies of one’s wealth just doesn’t seem right. One may expect the opposite situation to arise where people purchase bright and cheerful works of art to make themselves happier, but this just doesn’t seem to be what happens. It seems that it is extremely difficult to justify the purchase of one of many of these “bright and shiny” trophies when one’s financial situation comes into question, which suggests that the purchase of such a work would be a bad investment (as we know so many of them are).

The contemporary art market tends to rely on immediate visual impact and instant gratification to entice people to get out their wallets. With so many artists vying for the attention and patronage of a relatively small number of collectors and investors it is not surprising that the visual impact and attractiveness of an artist’s work becomes such an important factor. The Frieze art fair is a good example of the way an artist’s work looks can have a major effect on its ability to get noticed. Not unlike a supermarket, the Frieze art fair is filled with aisle after aisle of products vying for the attention of the waves of shoppers that pass by. The dizzying array of goods on offer means that it is very easy for a particular atist’s work to get lost in the crowd. And many do. In such an environment it is undoubtedly beneficial for an artist to present their most high impact and visually stunning work as anyone who has visited a fair such as Frieze would know.

To suggest that the path that the art market can be affected to such a degree by the instinctual human attraction to bright shiny objects may sound bizarre at first but if you take some time to ponder the concept I think you will find it is not as silly as it may seem.

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

Christmas Gifts for Art Lovers 09 – artmarketblog.com

Christmas Gifts for Art Lovers 09 – artmarketblog.com

Limited Edition Photo by Youngsuk Suh from Humble Arts

Limited edition print from Humble Arts
Youngsuk Suh
Boating, Idaho, 2009, from Instant Traveler
Archival Pigment Print on Rag Paper, 16 x 20 in.
Signed and numbered, Special Edition of 3
$375
Buy Here: http://hafny.org/editions/youngsuk-suh-limited-edition-print/

The Great Contemporary Art Bubble DVD by Ben Lewis
Art critic and film-maker Ben Lewis spent 2008 following the contemporary art market; travelling to art fairs, auctions, museums and the offices and homes of billionaire art collectors. He spoke to dealers, auctioneers, gallery-owners, art market analysts and art collectors trying to find out the reasons behind the greatest rise in the value of art in history.
Buy Here: http://www.benlewis.tv/?cat=22

Adopt a painting with the Fine Art Adoption Network
FAAN is an online network, which uses a gift economy to connect artists and potential collectors. All of the artworks on view are available for adoption. This means acquiring an artwork without purchasing it, through an arrangement between the artist and collector.
More info here: http://www.fineartadoption.net/

John Baldessari edition from Parkett Art
Edition for Parkett 86
Raised Eyebrows / Furrowed Foreheads: Crooked Made Straight, 2009
9-color silkscreen print (front and back) on Plexiglas, 5 x 12 x 1/8″ (12,5 x 31 x 0,4 cm), printed by Atelier für Siebdruck, Lorenz Boegli, Zurich, Ed. 45/XX, signed and numbered certificate
$ 2400.00
Euro 1700.00
Buy Here: http://www.parkettart.com/qwr/edition_info2.php3?edition_nr=198

Baldessari Print

Teacup by Robert Lazzarini
Designed to be viewed from all angles, Teacup becomes a visual anomaly placed among everyday items, evoking a melancholic, otherworldly quality. Although challenging to drink from, it can be used.
$250.00
$200.00 Members
Buy here: http://www.momastore.org/museum/moma/ProductDisplay_Teacup_10451_10001_62512_-1_11595_11595__feature

Gift membership for The Fine Art Fund (UK)
Art Fund membership is the perfect present for an art-lover. With benefits including 50% off tickets to exhibitions as well as free entry to over 200 fascinating art collections, historic houses and beautiful gardens, you’ll be giving the gift of hundreds of enjoyable days out.
Single membership: 33 pounds
buy here: https://www.artfund.org/join/join_gift_membership.html?recipient=gift&intro=submit

Limited Edition t-shirt from Common Threads
THE BEST $38+ YOU EVER SPENT ON T-SHIRTS FOR A PRESENT!
Looking for a great present idea? Look no further! We have a very unique, cool and unusual gifts for you to give to loved ones. A tremendous amount of care goes into each t-shirt, rendering unique hemlines, detailed stitching, and precise cuts and a unique birthday gift for him or her. All our products are garment washed, yielding super-soft fabrics with a vintage feel. Our lightweight, fine gauge and innovative fabrications are combined with sleek, modern silhouettes, and the result is a collection of apparel as unique as the individuals wearing them. In addition, all of our designs are donated from leading artists and we print only 250 of each design. Given the fact that we give a school uniform to a child in need as well, it’s $38 well spent.
Buy Here:
http://www.commonthreadz.org/shop/index.php

Art and Auction magazine subscription
Subscribe to Art and Auction magazine and give a gift subsctiption free or treat yourself to two years for the price of one,
simply fill-in your name and address twice.
$79.97
Buy here: http://www.artinfo.com/artandauction/

Childrens Felt Wall Clock from etsy
Beautiful, stylish and trendy felt clock for Child’s Bedroom or Nursery Wall designed to give kids another fun point of interest in their rooms.
The color of your choice.
Handcrafted, made of felt and measures 9.5-inch diam.
Requires 1 AA battery
$42.00
Buy here: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=31865886

Gold and Tourmaline Ring by B. Weckstrom for Lapponia,1974

Limited Edition Photo from Troika Editions
The artworks on this site are our recommendations and they are not available anywhere else. Every artwork will be offered in the same three sizes, small, medium and large; in the same three edition runs of 300, 30 and 3; at the same price points £35, £350 and £3500. All you have to do is decide which one you like.
Buy Here: http://www.troikaeditions.co.uk/photographs

Artist iPhone Skin from Infectious
Paulo explains about his Firefox artwork: “the organic forms express interaction and connection. The hairy, fox-like elements are symbolic of nature’s speed. The hands and feet convey the need to reach everywhere and the eyes are like mirrors that reflect the global interaction, being in one place but connected to anywhere”.
iPhone Skins
$14.99
Buy Here: http://www.infectious.com/iphone-skins/YUPpauloarraiano/intotheforest/910

Wearable Art from 1stdibs.com and

Finland c1970
Price: $1,850
Buy Here: http://jewelry.1stdibs.com/jewelry_item_detail.php?id=3721

Art:21 – Art in the Twenty First Century 5 (Hardcover)
Mirroring the unique strengths of the Peabody Award winning television series broadcast on PBS, Art:21 Art in the Twenty-First Century 5 presents 14 contemporary artists speaking directly and in their own words. The artists’ reflections on their processes and inspirations are juxtaposed dynamically with lush, full-color images of their work. The book also includes an introductory essay by Susan Sollins as well as artist biographies and production stills from the series. The artists featured, include Cao Fei, Mary Heilmann, Jeff Koons, Florian Maier-Aichen, William Kentridge, Doris Salcedo, Carrie Mae Weems, John Baldessari, Kimsooja, Allan McCollum, Julie Mehretu, Paul McCarthy, Cindy Sherman, and Yinka Shonibare MBE.
$36.52
Buy Here: http://www.amazon.com/Art-21-Twenty-First-Century/dp/0615308368

**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

Greek Art Reaches Giddy Heights at Bonhams – artmarketblog.com

Greek Art Reaches Giddy Heights at Bonhams – artmarketblog.com

erez

Lot No: 23 Spyros Papaloukas (Greek, 1892-1957) Mt. Athos, skete of the Three Hierarchs and the Holy Trinity signed in Greek (lower right) oil on cardboard 54 x 50 cm. Sold for £168,000 inclusive of Buyer's Premium

Bonhams UK have been promoting themselves as the gods of Greek art for quite a while now and have claimed market dominance in the UK when it comes to selling Greek art on more than one occasion.  I am not entirely sure what brought about Bonhams’ fascination with Greek art, but whoever is responsible for the assault on this region should be congratulated for what has proven to be, and continues to be, a shrewd move for Bonhams.  Bonham’s most recent sale of Greek art held on the 10th of November was a good indication that the market for Greek art is extremely buoyant and also that Bonhams continue to maintain a dominant position in what is a competitive niche.  A total of £3.5 million worth of art was sold and a number of significant prices were achieved including:

– Spyros Papaloukas (Greek, 1892-1957) ‘Mt. Athos, skete of the Three Hierarchs and the Holy Trinity’ which sold for £168,000 (auction record for artist) inclusive of Buyer’s Premium

– Constantinos Maleas (Greek, 1879-1928) ‘Acropolis / Acropole vue entre des pins et aloès’ which sold for £311,200 (2nd highest price achieved at auction for artist) inclusive of Buyer’s Premium

-Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika (Greek, 1906-1994) ‘Calligraphy of a town’ which sold for £264,000 (3rd highest price achieved at auction for artist) inclusive of Buyer’s Premium

As a side note I am hesitant to refer to 2nd and 3rd highest auction prices for an artist as ‘world records’ as Bonhams have done and consider the practice of doing so to be dishonest.  Is the 20th highest auction price for an artist a world record too?  Bonhams went as far as to list the fifth highest auction price for an artist as a ‘world record’ which I think is rather cheeky. Anyway, back to the action.

Bohnams have a good record with the Greek art auctions that are held in the UK. In November of 2008, Bonhams’ sale of Greek art held at their Bond St. Saleroom brought in a total of 3.8 million pounds and resulted in fourteen artists’ auction records being broken.  According to Bonhams, a large majority of the buyers were Greek.  Moving on to May 2008 and once again Bonhams made headlines with their Greek art sale when they managed to shift 3.6 million pounds worth of art with and sell a record 90% lots offered.  Bonhams also reported 17 new world record prices which, as per above, should be taken with a grain of salt.

The Greek art market is quite unique because of the history of Greek art which basically revolved around the creation of religious icons until the start of the 19th century due to the fact that Greece was essentially shielded from the Renaissance by the ruling Ottoman empire .  “Modern” art is therefore a relatively new concept to the Greeks and represented a relatively untapped market that the three major auction houses were quick to take advantage of.  There are several reasons that the opportunity to dominate the market for Greek art became available to an organisation outside of Greece.   The main reason is that  much like the Indian art market, the Greek art market is relatively un-regulated and there is also a severe lack of infrastructure relating to authenticity, valuation and art market expertise that would be required to support the development of a free market in Greece.  An opportunity was therfore available to an international organisation that could supply what the Greek art market lacked and to satisfy the needs of those rich Greeks who have a passion for art.

Although the market for Greek art has proven to be very strong even during the recent financial crisis, investors and collectors should be extremely wary of the hype surrounding Greek art and should be extremely cautious with their purchases.  My reason for suggesting caution is that the Greek art world lacks the cultural sector infrastructure that is so important to the long term stability of an art market and the buoyancy of the prices being paid for the work of that market’s artists.  The contemporary Indian art market has suffered during the financial crisis due to the same lack of infrastructure that the Greek art market suffers from.  Greek art, especially the work of contemporary artists, has plenty of potential for investors but is also fraught with potential traps and problems that could have a major effect on the price of the work of many artists.

Although Bonham’s quip that “Interest in Greek art is more than just a myth at Bonhams 15th Greek Sale” does ring true, the market for Greek art is in it’s infancy and is at a relatively high risk of becoming a very fragile bubble that could easily be burst.  Investors and collectors should be particularly concerned about authenticity and future value until a more advanced cultural and market infrastructure is in place.

**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