Art Market Rebounding

Kelly Crow has a good article on the current status of the art market in the Wall Street Journal.  Crow reports that many sectors have gained most of the losses back from the decline in value of a year and a half ago.  Crow notes that Christie's has sold $2.57 billion in the first 6 months of 2010, up 43% and includes over $270 million in private sales.  Sotheby's has sold $2.2 billion in the first half of 2010, more than doubling sales from the same period in 2009. Sotheby's has also scheduled a press conference call to announce first half results for the afternoon of August 5th (click HERE to read the AW Post on how to listen in on the Sotheby's earnings conference call).  I would assume the news is going to be good, otherwise it would not have been so highly promoted.

Crow reports collectors are starting to feel more optimistic about the art market, and are starting to buy, while at the same time sellers with trophy pieces are starting to sell.  Keep in mind this strong growth and optimism is at the very top end of the art market.  She also notes the market is still a bit schizophrenic with some very strong results and some surprising failures.

Crow reports

Art buyers remain divided over how quickly the market should catch up, though. Longtime collectors in the U.S. and Europe are still seeking potential bargains, but they are facing tougher competition from new Asian bidders who are more willing to splurge.

So far this year, the clash in attitudes—one cautious, the other giddy—has created an unpredictable marketplace in which artworks tend to fly or flop without warning.

Christie's had its biggest success in the first half with Pablo Picasso, whose 1932 portrait of his mistress,"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" sold for $106.5 million in May, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction.

The work squeaked past Sotheby's top seller in the first half, Alberto Giacometti's "Walking Man I," which sold for $104.3 million in February.

Both houses capitalized on collectors' growing interest in modern sculpture. Christie's sold Giacometti's bronze bust of his brother, "Big Thin Head," for $53.2 million and Amedeo Modigliani's limestone bust of a woman, "Head of a Caryatide," for a record $52.6 million.

Other top sales at Sotheby's included J.M.W. Turner's "Modern Rome—Campo Vaccino," which the J. Paul Getty Museum bought for $45 million. Sotheby's also sold Edouard Manet's "Self Portrait of Manet, A Bust (Manet and a Palette)," for $33.2 million in June.

At Christie's, overall prices were up for nearly all of the auction house's major art categories., including $853 million of Impressionist and modern art, up 37.4%; $460.7 million of postwar and contemporary art, up 139%; and $368.2 million of Asian art, up 120.6%%.

Jewelry is another strong seller, thanks in part to a surge of interest from Asia. Christie's sold $227.3 million of jewelry, jadeite and watches during the first half. Asian buyers paid for 70% worth of Christie's jewels, compared to 41% last spring, Christie's said.

 Click HERE to read the full article.

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