Art Market Tests

The Wall Street Journal just posted an interesting article on the upcoming sale this fall and looking at markets in Hong Kong, New York, London and Los Angeles. While the growth in the market has slowed, and many top pieces are not coming to market, there is still interest. The WSJ looks at what can be expected in each of the major art market cities.

The WSJ reports
As the fall season gets underway, the skittish art market is facing a series of stress tests in each of the world’s major art hubs. Sotheby’s Hong Kong held a set of Asian art sales this week, and the rest of the art world just descended on London to attend the Frieze Art Fair and a series of contemporary art auctions. Next month, it’s off to New York, where a series of marquee auctions will determine price levels for the world’s top artists, from Pablo Picasso to Philippe Parreno.

All these sales should shed some light on whether the art market is poised to rebound or still has farther to fall. Following several years of breakneck growth, the market started a gradual slowdown last summer after Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)” sold in May 2015 for $179 million, the highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art. Collectors began to wince at high prices for other masterpieces. While plenty of art continued to trade at lower asking prices, uneasy sellers stopped putting their prized trophies up for sale, and a deflated atmosphere settled in overall.

This fall, prices for some once-trendy artists are still down by as much as one-third and a few emerging galleries like Lisa Cooley in New York have shuttered. The auction houses are no longer offering as many financial guarantees as they used to, or deals that promise collectors their art will sell no matter what. Making matters worse, the uncertainty over the upcoming U.S. presidential election and fears of a potential U.S. interest-rate hike are “making people nervous,” said Lauren Ridenhour, a New York bank adviser who helps collectors seek art-backed loans. “Usually around this time of year, my hedge-fund clients are moving money around, stockpiling it to buy art—but this year, they’re not.”

Despite the uncertainty, collectors don’t stop browsing even when they’re not buying. The latest generation has grown accustomed to an event-driven marketplace where it invariably pays to do the circuit, if only to glean tips on which artists are selling, or not, in any season. This kind of market intelligence becomes even more critical at a time when a particular auction or museum show could bolster the fate of an up-in-the-air artist. Those who make the rounds to the art world’s pivotal events this fall may sniff out clues to the market’s trajectory that could reap them profits while others risk holding duds.

Here’s a look at key sales that will likely test the art market’s mettle in Hong Kong, New York, London and Los Angeles—as well as exhibitions in each city that could become the season’s must sees.


Market Test: Are Chinese collectors making a comeback? Sotheby’s tested their art appetites during a series of Hong Kong auctions that ended Wednesday and totaled $282 million, more than its $260 million low estimate but still a far cry from five years ago when a similar series topped $400 million. On Wednesday, a Qing-era imperial seal carved from a hunk of jade sold for $11.8 million, over its $10.3 million estimate and a sale of contemporary art organized by Korean rapper T.O.P. sold for $17.4 million—its highest-value sale of Western contemporary art in Hong Kong.

Christie’s will counter by bolstering its presence in the mainland this fall. On Oct. 15, it’s moving into a larger, three-floor gallery showroom space next to the Beijing clubhouse for the Hong Kong Jockey Club with a show of Pablo Picasso works alongside Chinese works by Qi Baishi and others inspired by the painter. Christie’s fall series of Asian art sales in Shanghai kick off Oct. 22 with a 20th century sale. Watch to see how collectors react to the house’s offerings of surrealist Max Ernst and Japanese sculptor Ruth Asawa.

Must-See Show: In Asia, biennials are the art-world blockbusters, and this season, Hong Kong dealer Pearl Lam said she plans to check out South Korea’s Gwangju Biennial, which features over 100 artists including Amalia Pica and runs until Nov. 6. The Shanghai Biennial also opens Nov. 11. In Hong Kong, the show to see this fall will likely be alternative art space Para Site’s haunting survey of Thai filmmaker “Apichatpong Weerasethakul: The Serenity of Madness.” Mr. Apichatpong is best known for his 2010 film about reincarnation, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” He’s also been shown at Tate Britain—but Para Site’s exhibition, up through Nov. 27, is his first solo show in Hong Kong.

Market Test: After last month’s disappointing sales at Paris’s Biennale des Antiquaires, the pressure is on the 160 dealers in London’s Frieze Art Fair, which runs through Sunday, to reassure collectors that Europe’s contemporary art market isn’t lagging as well. So far, New York dealer David Maupin said U.S. collectors appear to be capitalizing on the weak pound, pre-Brexit. The fair runs through Sunday.

Concurrent with the fair, London’s major auction houses are conducting sales of Italian, British and international contemporary art that could help forecast bidders’ moods overall. The sales serve as a dress rehearsal for the bigger sales in New York next month. Boutique auctioneer Phillips started off solidly with an $18 million sale on Wednesday that met its expectations, led by a $6 million Andy Warhol from 1979, “20 Pink Maos.” Christie’s followed Thursday with a $43.5 million sale, including Adrian Ghenie’s “Nickelodeon” for $9 million, more than four times its high estimate.

On Friday night, Sotheby’s will put Gerhard Richter and Jean-Michel Basquiat to the test: Both artists have seen their prices soar, and then falter, in recent years. Last fall, Sotheby’s asked at least $8 million for a 1982 Basquiat, “Hannibal,” but didn’t get any takers. Now, it’s put the Basquiat back up for sale with a $4.5 million estimate. Will the discount appeal to bidders? Sotheby’s is also asking $3.9 million for Richter’s 1982 squeegee abstract “Garden,” a fraction of the $46 million his abstracts were getting last year—but far more than the $80,000 his “Garden” sold for in 1987.

Must-See Show: Belgian painter Luc Tuymans was 16 years old the first time he remembers seeing “The Intrigue” by his countryman James Ensor. The 1890 painting depicts outlandish partygoers, including a man wearing a top hat and a creepy, carnival mask. “I was entranced,” Mr. Tuymans said. Over the years, he’s also been “mystified” by how little-known Ensor is in Britain—and now Mr. Tuymans is trying to fix the oversight by curating a 70-work show, “Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans,” at London’s Royal Academy. It opens Oct. 29 in the academy’s mezzanine. While there, also be sure to see Mark Rothko scholar David Anfam’s survey of abstract expressionism.


Market Test: Last fall, New York’s heavyweight auction houses sold $2.3 billion worth of art during their November sales series of impressionist, modern and contemporary art. The total was down 8% from the market’s peak in May 2015 but still up 15% from November 2015 when there was enough demand for Christie’s to pad its fall sale series with an additional sale of modern and older art, called “The Artist’s Muse,” that totaled $491.3 million. This time around, Christie’s global president Jussi Pylkkanen said the house isn’t adding any additional sales to its slate for the New York series, and dealers say they don’t expect either house to hit their last-year targets.

Christie’s does expect to get at least $18 million for Wassily Kandinsky’s 1935 “Rigid and Bent,” which collector Solomon R. Guggenheim bought directly from the artist. Guggenheim’s namesake museum later resold it in 1964 to a U.S. collector, who is now offering it up on Nov. 16.

Sotheby’s is pinning its hopes on British painter David Hockney, whose six-panel forest scene, “Woldgate Woods, 24, 25 and 26 October, 2006,” is estimated to sell for at least $9 million at its Nov. 17 sale. The piece is the first example from the “Woldgate” series to come to auction and will serve as a fresh test of the painter’s appeal. His current auction record is $7.9 million.

Must-See Show: New York sculptor Daniel Arsham is colorblind, which helps explain why he typically uses monochrome materials like creamy plaster, volcanic ash and black glass to make his sculptures of cameras, microphones, sports jackets and basketballs. Each one is cast so it appears to be a relic unearthed in the future, chalky and half-crumbling. But after getting a pair of glasses two years ago that helped him see better in color, Mr. Arsham started working in color for the first time, grinding up blue calcite and amethyst to make the pieces in his first solo show in New York, “Circa 2345,” at Galerie Perrotin until Oct. 22. Mr. Arsham’s experiment, which evokes Dorothy stepping into Oz, is also chronicled in a new short documentary streaming online through the web magazine Semaine, “Colorblind Artist: In Full Color.” In an interview, the artist said he thought he’d wear the glasses all the time, but after a while the varying hues proved overwhelming. “I got tired trying to take it all in,” he said.

Be sure to take a selfie inside his purple cavern of sporting equipment at Perrotin before the installation heads to Atlanta’s High Museum, which plans to exhibit it next spring.


Market Test: On Sunday, price levels for high-end design will get measured when Los Angeles Modern Auctions conducts a sale that includes dozens of 20th-century furniture pieces, from a Sam Maloof rocking chair from 1991 that’s estimated to sell for at least $20,000 to a Jean Roy√®re chandelier from 1947 whose X-shape grids evoke Paris’s Eiffel Tower and is estimated to sell for at least $50,000. Has the market peaked for architect Frank Gehry’s fish sculptures? There’s an unusual iteration from 1987-88 in the Oct. 9 sale wherein Mr. Gehry sculpted a fish in lead and suspended it in watery-looking glass in a bathtub. Asking price: $100,000, a record for a Gehry fish.

Must-See Show: New York artist R.H. Quaytman is best known for her mysterious groupings of geometrical paintings, silkscreen landscapes and portraits that she packages and shows in “chapters,” like a novel unfolding in canvases on the wall. Buzz is already building for her show opening Oct. 16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, “R.H. Quaytman: Morning, Chapter 30,” in part because for the first time, she’s also going big: Rather than assemble multiple small canvases in a salon-style formation, she was inspired by a cross-country road trip to go big—with a 110-foot-long panorama view of the desert she crossed to reach Los Angeles. “It’s this epic horizon line,” said curator Bennett Simpson. “It’s utterly gorgeous.”

Mr. Simpson said the artist is still better- known in Europe, but this show brims with references to a wilder, American West—from canvases that contain woven blanket patterns to an homage to land artist Michael Heizer’s trench-like earth work, “Double Negative.”
Source: The Wall Street Journal 

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