Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Under the Weather

feeling kind of snuffly. Non-mediated posting will resume tomorrow.

Consider this an open thread on the implications of this auction report:
Countering speculation that foreigners would emerge as the dominant buyers, Americans took home nearly half the art at Christie’s last night in the start to the fall auction season.

The recent subprime mortgage and equity crisis had stirred fears that American collectors would hesitate to plunk down millions of dollars for prime offerings of works by Matisse, Picasso or Cézanne, opening the way for newly rich Russians, Chinese or Europeans.

But on the opening night of two relentless weeks of fall auctions, a sale devoted to Impressionist and modern art, Christie’s Rockefeller Center salesroom was jam-packed with the same collectors, dealers and curiosity-seekers who always attend twice a year, hoping for a little theater and big prices.

The evening did not disappoint. Bidding for the best was competitive, with record prices set for masters like Matisse, Signac and Pissarro.

“If you were looking for cracks in the market, it was difficult to find them,” James Roundell, a London dealer, said at the end of the evening.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Molly Stevens said...

My impression is:

Subprime mortgage problems effect lower-middle and middle-class folks.

The rich stay rich. Art - which in many ways has become a luxury item - continues to be available to the monied classes.

11/07/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous pedro velez said...

I agree with Molly...

and I also ask myself, Could all thse speculations of a downfal be part of the theatre...the spectacle to hype up the sales?

11/07/2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

re: subprime mortgage problems affecting the lower and middle class. In the trenches yes. However, this is a major world wide financial problem right now with banks reporting losses well over 15 billion dollars to date. Heads are rolling. It’s a major psychological negative.

Re: the dollar. The dollar in difficulty at the moment. (minor understatement) The auction results may reflect an interest by US collectors to swap dollars for hard assets (artworks)

The Christie’s sale went well with only 18.6% of the Christie’s lots bought in.

Could all these speculations of a downfall be part of the theatre...the spectacle to hype up the sales?

Pedro, I suppose it could be, but I seriously doubt it. Rather, for fundamentally economic reasons, I believe we’ve seen a major expansion in the size of the overall art market, including price expansions for artworks which parallel some other asset classes. I think we are probably closer to the end than the beginning of this cycle, however many of the participants are applying older, more static, expectations to a market which is in an expansionary phase. As a result, there is a propensity for players to ‘pick the top’, eventually they will be right, but for the moment their skepticism is a healthy indication that we are not at a top yet.

11/07/2007 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Feel better soon. And happy birthday to Bambino on Friday!

11/07/2007 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

As an update, Sotheby’s sale yesterday was a bit of a bust. In looking at the offerings before the auctions, I had felt that Christie’s was more conservative in their pre-sale estimates and it appears I was correct.

Sotheby's officials said the results were more a reflection that estimates for the value of the works had been too high rather than a sign of trouble in the art market.

"I'm not ready to read this at all as a correction to the market, which I think, despite tonight, is strong," said David Norman, Sotheby's chairman of Impressionist and modern art.

"I know the sale was really difficult, but I see it more as resistance to the aggressive estimates and not so much that the market has turned," he told Reuters.

"Our estimates were obviously not accepted by the market, which made people cautious."
[Reuters]

Oopsie, I think that last year they would have chased the price on the Van Gogh above the high estimate, some sanity is finally settling into the auction markets.

Sotheby’s stock [NYSE:BID] is taking it on the chops, off 30% from yesterdays close.

11/08/2007 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Marshall said...

The ultra-rich are still just that. I don't see anyone on the side of the freeway rocking a sign that says "born into wealth and privilege, will work for food."

Even if some heads are rolling at the top, there's more than enough folks who are essentially permanently monied who can play art collector.

11/08/2007 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Even if some heads are rolling at the top, there's more than enough folks who are essentially permanently monied who can play art collector

‘Heads rolling’ referred to the CEO’s recently fired because of the loan loss problems.

I’m not an expert, but I suspect there are less than 50 collectors in the world with the juice to pay $30 million for an artwork. They may be more impervious to economic contractions, but the rest are affected by economic conditions, either directly or psychologically indirectly.

The art market, including gallery and direct sales, expands and contracts with the overall economy. It’s possible the US economy is on the brink of a recession (some say we’re in one), if this occurs the art market will contract.

I personally do not think we will have a recession, at least one of any consequence, and so I would expect the art market to cool off but not collapse. Then, I’m just another artist, not an economist, I could be wrong.

11/08/2007 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous pedro velez said...

thanks George...I'm not an ecomist either....it's all pretty much abstract. My work doesn't go for 15,000 -up, so I don't see the pre-plunge or feel affected by the market. Althought many galleries in PR are closing because of the economy.

11/10/2007 05:48:00 PM  

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