Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wisdom Without Convention

First and foremost, I do not profess any expertise in reading the tea leaves that are the auction results from contemporary sales. You can turn to's handy summaries and analyses or read's breakdown on the top 5 prices, but in trying to mesh what is happening at the auctions with the "conventional wisdom" one hears on the street, I've taken to making sure I have a pinch or two of salt nearby.

For example, the conventional wisdom
last year was that the art market had probably peaked in 2005. There were still high prices, but they were mostly for established artists. Fresher faces were seeing interest in their work declining, which seemed to echo solid indications of a coming chill...or so the convetional wisdom said:

In 1990, 28 artists under the age of 45 sold an artwork for over USD 100,000 at a public auction. The following year, only 7 of these hit the same level. In 2005 the new wave of artists pushed the figure to 49. What will the result be in 2006?
Well, all the 2006 auction results are not in just yet, but at Sotheby's Contemporary exhibition on Tuesday, all the work by artists under 45 (I think 9 of them fall into that age bracket) sold at well past 100K, with at least 4 of them setting new records (there were 15 new all-time high records in total). There are, of course, other contemporary sales results to come, but so far things seems less than apocalyptic.

In fact, by all indications, the trend is ever-upward*:

It was just another record-breaking auction at Sotheby’s New York on the evening of Nov. 14, 2006. In the first sale in a week of contemporary art sales, Sotheby’s totaled $125,132,800, with 76 of 83 lots finding buyers, or almost 91 percent. By comparison, the Sotheby’s sale of a year ago totaled $114.5 million on 48 of 54 lots, and in fall 2004 the house did $92 million on a sale of 62 lots.

And as MAO pointed out recently, there's every reason to expect strong sales to continue well through 2007:

Well.. the preliminary numbers are in!!! Lets just say... there will be freakin truck loads Billion and Billions of Wall Street Bonus Dollars to grease the wheels of every NYC Art Gallery, Auction House, Coke Dealer, Real Estate Agent, Strip Joint and Sports Car Dealership this Christmas Season..So.. HO HO HO! Pass the MONET and Let the merriment begin!

All of which seems to indicate that things will indeed by jolly in Miami this year (yes, I'm shamelessly plugging our participation in Aqua really should stop by if you're in Miami...Bambino will not be pleased if he hears you didn't).

*I don't have data on last might's auction, so if it tanked, please just pass the mustard with my crow.


Blogger Mark said...

17 million for the Mao is insanity,19 for a Still, maybe, insanity can be fun though. 19 million, 17 million, Darfur.

11/16/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger The Hanger-On said...

It was interesting to see at the Philips de Pury preview (no reports on this auction yet?) a number of younger, hot artists with work up for auction. That is to say, work being flipped for the hot market. I saw two works by Banks Violette (one large, one small), a photo by Slater Bradley, another large photo by Marilyn Minter, and several works by Naomi Fisher.

And like last year, there were tons of Richard Prince at de Pury and at Christies.

11/16/2006 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger The Hanger-On said...

That Still looked pretty damn good though....

11/16/2006 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Every time someone states that the purchase price of an art object is ridiculous I compare it to the contracts given to athletes. Athletes are much more vulnerable to water and breakage than art and do not appreciate with age.

11/16/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

sure and no steriods.

11/16/2006 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

It strikes me as I see all the amazing numbers coming in, I could buy several hundred pieces, or more, of great art for that kind of money.

11/16/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Where you at any of the auctions?


11/17/2006 02:30:00 AM  
Blogger The Artist Extraordinaire said...

I know galleries do the "Right to First buy-back" contracts now where I buyer has to agree to inform and give first shot at a work of art they are deaccessioning to the gallery they acquired it from. But are there residuals contracts? Are their ways artists can actually get a cut of their work being auctioned off for astronomical prices?

Artists still get legally fucked when they donate art. It is weird, the artist made the thing, but see only %50 of $1000 when it is sold. And then a few years later see nothing of the $100K that same piece goes for.

Actors get all sorts of residuals for DVDs sold, toys and all that. Why not contracts for artists and dealers to get some cash when a work goes on the block?

11/17/2006 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize this is an outdated post, but I didn't see any response yet to artist extraordinaire's question above... the short answer is yes, there are mechanisms for providing an artist with residuals, both contractual and statutorily. Most people refer to this as either a "resale royalty right" or "droit de suite". In Europe all art resold is now subject to the droit de suite scheme enacted under EEC guidelines. California also enacted a resale royalty right for artists in the late 1970s. Further, an artist can enter into a contract with a collector which simply outlines profit sharing on any future sale. Due to the legal concept known as "being in privity of contract", an artist cannot bind future purchasers and sellers-- only the first one. For many reasons I personally think that legislatively mandated resale royalty rights are not helpful to artists or the art market in the long run; however, under the right circumstances, I encourage the artists and collectors with whom I work to enter into agreements which provide for a percentage of future gains to be shared with the artist. When correctly positioned, I've found many collectors to be very receptive to this concept, as well as most artists.

11/26/2006 06:52:00 PM  

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