The Weakening Art Market

I had a lot of comments and requests for more information on my Potomack preview evening talk about re-purposing antiques.  I will try to update and post more information on the topic and my talk in the next few days.

I thought this article from the Financial Times was important to post as it takes a look at the current and short term outlook for the art market and other current happenings. In supporting claims of a weakened market, the article refers to a 24% decline in sales during the first six months of 2016 when compared to 2015. Perhaps Sotheby's battles back with sale of David Bowie's art collection and furniture. It also mentions the Doig lawsuit I posted on a few days back.

The Financial Times reports

Proof of a weakened art market is emerging as the auction houses begin to release their figures for the first six months of 2016. During this time, the value of sales at auction at Sotheby’s fell 24 per cent to $2.4bn. Volumes were hit particularly hard in North America (down from $1.4bn to $869m) while Asia sales grew, from $382m to $458m. Private sales figures will be disclosed in August and are worth scrutiny given Sotheby’s commitment to this area through the acquisition of Art Agency Partners in January.

Christie’s will announce results this month and expectations are that these will also be down from the $4bn of auction sales made in the first half of 2015, given the cooler art buying environment.

Art market life goes on, however, and Sotheby’s has won the high-profile mandate to sell David Bowie’s art and furniture. The legendary musician, who studied and made art, was also an avid buyer, particularly of British modern and contemporary works. The London dealer Bernard Jacobson fondly remembers him “popping in to the gallery for five minutes and staying for three hours”.

The sale will feature about 200 works by British artists including Henry Moore, Frank Auerbach, Patrick Caulfield and Damien Hirst (whom Bowie interviewed for Modern Painters magazine in 1996). Beyond the British art field are many other works, including Basquiat’s “Air Power” (1984, estimated at £2.5m-£3.5m) — Bowie hugely admired the late American graffiti artist.

A spokesperson for Bowie’s estate said that while his family will keep “certain pieces of particular personal significance, it is now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate — and acquire — the art and objects he so admired.”

The three-part auction, in London on November 10 and 11, is expected to raise more than £10m, although it remains to be seen what premium such celebrity ownership can command.

The first preview of the collection will be in Sotheby’s New Bond Street saleroom from July 20 to August 9, followed by further showings in Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong.

Two ongoing legal complaints heated up this week. One of them — a case brought against the artist Peter Doig — is now going to trial in Illinois, starting on August 8. The case concerns a painting that the plaintiffs, Robert Fletcher and Bartlow Gallery, say is by the artist but that Doig says is not. Fletcher and the Chicago gallery allege that Doig’s assertion has prevented them selling the work and are seeking between $5m and $7m in damages. Doig says that the case has “bigger implications” surrounding issues of authorship.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the art dealer Olivier Thomas has been charged with breach of trust, fraud, receiving stolen goods and money laundering on the back of new evidence as part of the ongoing investigation into an alleged theft of Picasso paintings and drawings. The works were reported as missing by Catherine Hutin-Blay, Picasso’s stepdaughter, last year.

Her lawyer, Anne-Sophie Nardon, described the latest development as “very good news” for her client. Thomas’s lawyer, Jean-Marc Fédida, said this reaction is premature and that Thomas “denies everything”.

On its way to a Chinese buyer is a manuscript for JS Bach’s Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E flat major for lute or keyboard (c1735-40), handwritten by the Baroque composer. The work sold at Christie’s on July 13 for £2.2m (£2.5m with fees) and is one of only three known complete autograph manuscripts written for instruments. (Bach’s cantatas — music for voices — while still a rarity, are seen more often.)

The price comes close to the record for a musical manuscript, which was set in 1987 for a set of nine Mozart symphonies that sold for £2.6m — but it may not be one that Mozart holds for long. In November, Sotheby’s is selling a complete manuscript of Gustav Mahler’s second Resurrection symphony (1888-94), estimated at more than £3.5m. The unaltered manuscript, 200 pages long, comes from the collection of the economist and businessman Gilbert Kaplan, who died this year.

Having sold Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 manuscript for £1.2m in 2014, Simon Maguire, Sotheby’s senior specialist, said, “I never thought I would see a big Romantic symphony again.”

The Bach manuscript sale rounded off a successful Classic Week of 14 auctions at Christie’s, impressively led by Rubens’ ‘Lot and his Daughters’ (1613-14), which sold for £40m (£44.9m with fees) on July 7.

France may have been pipped at the post in the Euro 2016 final but its auction houses are on the ball. For the first time since it was founded in 2002, Artcurial, headquartered in Paris, has come top of the table for the opening six months of 2016. Its total sales of €117.5m (excluding VAT on its commissions) just beat Christie’s equivalent €112.3m and Sotheby’s €107m.

Classic cars continue to flatter Artcurial’s top line: in February it sold a 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti for €28m (€32.1m with fees). Some fine art with local connections also sold well. Giovanni Boldini’s swirling Parisian scene, ‘A l’Opéra de Paris’ (1886), went for more than seven times its estimate for €370,000 (€460,600 with fees) in March. The bulk (80 per cent) of Artcurial’s high-end sales go to buyers overseas, according to vice-president Fabien Naudan.

“You can sell to clients everywhere from anywhere,” he says. But, he adds, “People appreciate it if you sell French furniture, for example, from its original landscape.”

The summer season is rarely a money-spinner for art galleries, reliant on art tourists and passing trade while the mega collectors take a break from buying. This provides a chance for more experimental exhibitions. In London, Blain|Southern has a striking show of Carlo Carrà, an overlooked Italian metaphysical artist who was a contemporary of Giorgio de Chirico. The works on paper, made between 1910 and 1930, are on sale for between €17,000 and €70,000.

Other galleries use the opportunity to go where their clients will be (there’s no escape). This week, Hauser & Wirth put six sculptures by Alexander Calder among the mountains in Gstaad, Switzerland. These late, large-scale works are on view until September 30 and available to buy for up to $15m.
Source: The Financial Times 

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