As Art Market Surges, it’s Time for Sellers to Make a Move

Bob and Roberta Smith, Art is Everywhere (detail), 2012

Winter may be known for gloomy weather, but for the art market it looks like sunny days are ahead. Despite worries that ranged from the shock of Brexit, the surprise US election results and a shifting global economy, the total sales at last month’s biannual series of evening auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips’s registered a total of $1.1 billion, 20% higher than the $893.2 million achieved at the series in May.

For now, the upward trend is still in its early stages, but signs point to this being a good time for sellers to bring their works to market, especially through private sale/private treaty.

The May numbers represented a record low. Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith told CNBC that that the dip was not due to a lack of buyers, but was the result of a lack of supply from sellers, who were nervous about the unpredictable market. Smith was hopeful that the good results this year would have a positive effect going forward.

“It’s convincing those sellers that the buyers are there — that’s the big opportunity,” he said.

Although the sales total at the auction houses just topped the preset estimates and values can be inflated when houses offer guarantees to secure major consignments, there were some undeniably impressive sales. One of Monet’s haystack paintings Meule, 1891, sold at Christie’s for $72.5 million, almost double the pre-sale estimate, setting a record for the artist after five bidders jumped into the fray.

At Sotheby’s, impressionist and modern art sales had mediocre results, but collectors came out in force to bid for contemporary art offerings. Many were particularly excited about a batch of 25 pieces on offer from collector Ann Ames. A German telephone bidder took home the Ames estate’s prize lot, a red-splattered abstract by Gerhard Richter, 1986’s A B, Still, that sold for $33.9 million, over its $30 million high estimate. In total, the pieces from the Ames estate were expected to sell for around $93.7 million but wound up selling for $122.8 million.

But it was Phillips that posted the most improved results. Its Wednesday evening auction of 20th-century and contemporary works raised $111.2 million, more than double the $46.6 million from the equivalent sale in May.

Although it will likely take more than a few successful evenings at the top auction houses to instill confidence into still shaky sellers, there is a sense of stability and success in the air for art market players.

As more sellers make the decision to put their prize pieces on the market, new and continuing collectors would be wise to start investigating what is on offer, particularly contemporary stand-put pieces. Artequesta can assist them by providing full services for curating and managing fine art portfolios and identifying the best opportunities to sell their artwork.

After all, in a time of political change, we can count on art to respond to new trends. Buying and selling future classics is one way of supporting positive change and of assuring that freedom of expression always remains en vogue.

By Rayah Levy, Art Market Expert
LinkedIn December 14, 2016:

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