February 2012: January/ February Art Market Report
THE CLOSING OF JANUARY MARKED “OLD MASTERS WEEK” in New York. The two many auction houses accumulated relatively low tallies of approximately $67 Million by Sotheby’s and $34M by Christie’s, causing concern that the OM market has collapsed. Apparently the New York Times’ “Souren Melikian isn’t happy with the way the Old Master sales played out in London last week. He predicts their potential demise, not for a lack of buyers but for the cupidity of sellers.” On the other hand, Artnet’s Jessica Mizrachi believes, “despite the prevailing notion that the Old Master market was mined out long ago, the sales this winter had some real sparklers.” Art dealer Howard Rehs wrote a piece for Art Market Monitor titled, “A Picky Old Master Market”. Rehs broke everything down to the essentials: “In the end, no matter how you want to slice it, the fact is that good works of art are not only finding buyers, but blowing past their estimates; the rest of the works are having a very tough time. I have always believed that a picky market is a very good market. If you buy the best, you will rarely go wrong.” And there you have it. Hopefully, the launch of Frieze Masters next October will help trigger an OM market revival.
ART E-COMMERCE SITE ARTSPACE, HAS RAISED $2.5 Million. Founded last March, Artspace has already partnered with institutions like the Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Museum, and galleries like David Zwirner and White Cube. According to Randy Kennedy at The New York Times, the money was funded “from a group of investors and had also signed up several prominent museums and galleries – among them the New Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and the Mexico City gallery kurimanzutto – as partners that will offer works to buyers through the Web site … Along with the financing from investors, the site also announced that it had hired Andrew Goldstein, the former Executive Editor of the art news site Artinfo, to serve as Artspace’s editor-in-chief, in an effort by the site to provide more news, educational material and information about artists to prospective buyers.”
FEBRUARY 3–8 MARKED THE SECOND VIP ART FAIR aptly named “VIP 2.0”. Under its new CEO Lisa Kennedy (former head of sales at Artnet with 15+ years of experience in Internet commerce), this edition pulled together 135 participant galleries from 35 countries, showcasing 1,100 artists and 1,500 artworks. This resulted in increased online traffic—specifically 160,000 unique visitors from 155 countries viewing an impressive 1.5 million pages. “VIP 2.0 saw a growth in visitor numbers from key emerging markets, including a 278% increase in visitors from India, 288% UAE, 277% Brazil, 409% Turkey, 319 % Mexico and 456% from Chile.”
THE LAUNCH OF ART WYNWOOD was held February 16–20, in a 125,000 square-foot tent (the same one occupied by Art Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach). It featured “a hand-picked selection of more than 500 artists from 13 countries around the globe”, attracting over 5,100 visitors.
ON JANUARY 1, 2012 THE CONTROVERSIAL EU Artist's Resale Rights (ARR) legislation came officially into effect in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, this places a significant burden on UK auction houses—the extra premium on items deters bidders. The Chairman of the British Art Market Federation, Anthony Browne told Artlyst "If [ARR] existed worldwide, you'd have a level playing field. But it doesn't." Countries with implemented ARR vary in their enforcement methods. Currently, the UK only applies ARR to living artists whereas the rest of the EU applies the tax to living and deceased artists (+70 years after death). Some countries like Australia impose a flat percentage, whereas others employ a sliding scale system. Each jurisdiction has its own legal loopholes prompting lawsuits to proliferate across the globe. In the US, California is the only state to enforce artist resale rights, at 5% for work over $1000. The federal bill currently being lobbied—essentially a new tax—may only apply to auction house sales (not gallery sales). Based on Droite de Suite (which translates as “right to follow” in French), ARR aims to support artists. But not all artists back the bill as it strains buying and selling in the secondary market.
THE RECENT SLEW OF IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN SALES in London proved successful beyond people’s expectations—such excitement is usually reserved for New York’s auction season in May. Among the many highlights, the late Henry Moore dominated IMP sales, accounting for £33 Million of the total £278M in sales from Christie’s and Sotheby’s combined. Other notable sales included works by Joan Miró, Juan Gris, Paul Signar, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pisarro, Edgar Degas, and Vincent van Gogh (many sold as part of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection). Christie’s brought in £80.5 Million (with an estimate £57–£84M), while Sotheby’s sold £50.6M (with a £50M estimate). Perhaps these numbers provide a preemptive glimpse into what will likely be a cumulatively strong auction season.
IN TERMS OF CONTEMPORARY ART SALES in London, the tallies compare to pre-recession times. According to the Daily Telegraph, “Nearly £186 million was spent in nine sales at four auction houses, comfortably within the pre-sale estimate of £142 to £214 million. This time last year, before the eurozone crisis and talk of a double dip, the equivalent sales made only about £1.5 million more.” Highlights included: Francis Bacon’s “Portrait of Henrietta Moraes”, for £21.3 Million; an untitled work by Christopher Wool for almost £5M; a piece by Zao Wou-Ki for £1.8M; and Zhang Huan’s giant sculpture, “Ash Head 1”, for £228,304. Predictably, Gerhard Richter led the pack, with six works sold for a total of £17.6 Million. His top lot, “Abstraktes Bild”, fetched £9.8 M. In total, Richter accounted for 24% of London’s contemporary sales—undoubtedly contributing to the 28% increase in contemporary sales compared to the same time last year.
THIS PAST JANUARY, THE WORLD’S 4TH LARGEST auction house, China Guardian, set up shop in Vancouver, which houses one of the largest Chinese populations outside of China. Founded in 1993, the Guardian held its first set of consignments in the city last year. According to Metro Vancouver, this “resulted in Guardian accepting $50 million Chinese yuan ($7.9 million Canadian) in artwork”.
THE 2ND EDITION OF ART STAGE SINGAPORE ran January 12–15. ArtSS12 presented 140 participant galleries and over 600 artists under the helm of Lorenzo Rudolf. Rudolf is an art fair veteran having worked for Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach, and ShContemporary before coming on board at ArtSS—where he’s brought a strong collector focus. He explained to the Wall Street Journal, “Even more than America or Europe … Collectors are front and center in the marketing, events and even some of the art surrounding Art Stage.”
LONDON ART FAIR RAN JANUARY 18–22. The 24th edition exhibited over 120 galleries, more than 1000 artists, which attracted over 25,000+ visitors. Since 1988, the fair has gone through a slew of reincarnations, this year being its most successful with a stronger blue-chip presence.
THE GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM HAS DECIDED to close its 15-year old Berlin branch, located in the headquarters of Deutsche Bank. According to Carol Vogel’s Arts Beat column at The New York Times, “Neither the bank nor the Guggenheim gave a concrete reason for the decision, saying only that their contract expires at the end of 2012.” The Director of the Guggenheim Foundation, Richard Armstrong, stated, “Berlin today is a very different city from what it was when we began. We feel the time is right now to step back and re-examine our collaboration to see how it might evolve.''
HELSINKI, FINLAND, ON THE OTHER HAND, is the next branch on Guggenheim’s list. According to the NYT, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is proposing that the new museum be built on the “South Harbor waterfront … about 129,000 square feet with 42,000 feet of exhibition space and set it up largely as a non-collecting institution. The estimated cost would be around $178 million.”
CHRISTIE’S WAS HIRED TO SELL the art of bankrupt Irish collectors through NAMA, which stands for National Asset Management Agency in Ireland. The Financial Times reported that Christie’s earned an estimate £1.6 Million from nine seized artworks that bypassed local auction houses like Whyte’s Auctioneers in Dublin, directly to NAMA.
THE 31ST EDITION OF ARCOmadrid ran February 16–20, presenting 197 galleries from 30 countries and attracting over 150,000 visitors. Art Media Agency reported that the Reina Sofia Museum purchased 17 works from 15 artists totaling €800,000 in acquisitions and The Coca-Cola foundation purchased a dozen pieces for €100,000.
FRANCE’S ART MARKET REMAINS STRONG despite euro fluctuations. Niche auction houses like Artcurial have helped boost the market, reportedly earning €127 million in sales last year. Grégory Picard at BLOUIN Artinfo wrote back in December, “Artcurial is still in the shadow of those great beasts Christie's and Sotheby's, with €199 million ($260 million) and €190 million ($249 million) in sales in France in 2011, respectively. But Artcurial boasts the highest sales of the France-based auction houses, and posted its best results ever this year, citing a 23 percent increase in sales figures in 2011, with 17,800 lots sold.”
A REGULATORY BILL IS ABOUT TO BE passed in France targeting auctioneers. Art Media Agency reports, “the French Minister of Liberties and Justice and Keeper of the Seals, approved a bill calling for the introduction of a code of ethics for auctioneers. The bill, which has been adopted and reviewed by the ‘Conseil des ventes volontaires’ (CVV) … simply aims to enforce those currently in place, and to ensure their application.”
THE CVV ALSO ASKED FRANCE-BASED Artprice to clearly disclose to the public that it’s now an “auction brokering site”. As a leading online art market resource, Artprice recently launched its new commercial endeavor Artfire—essentially a place for buying and selling art via its website. According to EcommerceBytes.com, “Artfire is working with Escrow.com to provide a tailored solution that offers a 100% guarantee of security and payment for buyers and sellers. Artprice also has an agreement with INTERPOL, allowing buyers to access its international Stolen Works of Art database to check if a work being offered for sale is subject to any legal dispute or search warrant.” Luckily, CEO Thierry Ehrmann is off the hook, having clearly stated in previously submitted documents to Actusnews—a special financial information website certified by the AMF (French financial markets authority)—that Artprice hosts auctions. Last year, the company grew 5% with a quarterly turnover of €1.725 million likely to increase in 2012 with its new venture.
ARTPRICE RECENTLY PUBLISHED ITS “Annual Art Market Report 2011”. Referring to BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as BRICS to include South-Africa, the Report states that these countries’ respective art markets are expanding. In particular, China is seeing skyrocketing growth despite regular skepticism in the media. “In addition to the 49% growth in auction revenue from artworks in China, a number of other Asian countries have also posted particularly dynamic growth, such as Singapore (+22%) and Indonesia (+39%).”
SKATE’S ART MARKET RESEARCH RECENTLY published “Skate's Art Investment Review: Global Art Industry: Annual Report for 2011 and Outlook for 2012”. Among the Report’s many components, the arts stock index table “summarizes the share performance data for all listed companies worldwide that derive most of their economics from servicing the art industry or managing art assets.” According to the Report, Artprice and Artnet outperformed all other indexes in 2011. View the table here.
INDIA ART FAIR (formerly India Art Summit) ran January 26–29. “The fourth edition featured 91 exhibitors from 20 countries presenting 1000 of the most exciting modern and contemporary artists across a 12,000 square meter custom built space created for the art fair.” IAF showcased an impressive mix of established Indian and non-Indian talent in the names of Rashid Rana, Anish Kapoor, Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Tracy Emin, Damien Hirst, and Martin Creed.
This past year, half of IAF’s stock (49%) was sold to Sandy Argus and Will Ramsay, owners of the wildly successful ART HK. This helped attract participant blue chip galleries like Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna), Hauser & Wirth (New York, London, and Zurich), White Cube (London), Die Galerie (Frankfurt), and Lisson Gallery (London). Delhi-based analyst, Suhel Seth, remarked to The Guardian, “This whole fair shows how the best galleries from across the world are making directly for India. The fair is running like clockwork and I’ve never seen so many chairmen of auction houses.”
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief