Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Art Market Winter 2017

1. LONDON - Art Market Recovering? London May Tell (Auctions include Klimt, Picasso, Le Corbusier)

Asian collectors have become such a force in the global art market that the world’s chief auction houses are rejiggering their sales calendars to suit them. London’s winter auctions, historically held in early February, were postponed this year so that the sales wouldn’t overlap with the lunar new year. Those hoping to see signs of a turnaround in the ailing art have had to wait a little longer.

London’s latest round is set to kick off Tuesday, with Sotheby’s, Christie’s and the smaller house Phillips expecting to sell at least $593 million worth of impressionist, modern and contemporary art combined, down 4.4% from a similar, $620 million series held a year ago.

A few heavyweight paintings will likely soak up much of the attention, but in more than a dozen cases, the houses have already locked in deals to ensure that certain works sell—to outside investors who have pledged to bid if no one else steps up or to the houses themselves, which have agreed to buy them as inventory. These guaranteed sellers include Gustav Klimt’s 1907 view of a farmer’s field, “Cottage Garden,” which Sotheby’s plans to resell for around $45 million on Wednesday. Plenty of other artists will undergo market stress tests by the time the sales end March 10. Here are a few works to watch.​

A. Le Corbusier, ‘Accordion, Carafe and Coffee Maker.’ Auction house Christie’s has packed its Tuesday sale of impressionist and modern art with household names. There’s Paul Gauguin’s 1892 view of a Tahitian “House,” estimated to sell for at least $14.9 million, and Henri Matisse’s 1944 “Young Girl With Anemones Against a Purple Background,” put at $6.2 million or more. The sleeper hit of Christie’s sale may be works by Le Corbusier, an artist better known as an architect, whose paintings rarely come to auction. Christie’s plans to test collectors’ appetites with a trio of his oils, including this 1926 still life, estimated to sell for at least $1.9 million.

B. Pablo Picasso, ‘Tomato Plant.’ Natural light matters when it comes to putting a price on real estate—or art. Consider Picasso’s series of World War II-era tomato plant paintings. Eleven years ago, Christie’s asked up to $7 million for the artist’s gloomy, 1944 rendition of a drooping “Tomato Plant”—and sold it for $13.5 million. Now, Sotheby’s has consigned this earlier, sun-dappled version of the same plant under the same title, and Helena Newman, chairwoman of Sotheby’s Europe, expects the house can get between $12.4 million and $18.6 million for it. “Our plant is healthier and happier,” she said.
C. Miquel Barceló, ‘Muletero.’ Toro, toro! All three houses are offering up paintings of bullfight arenas by the Spanish painter, a neo-expressionist whose series of arenas started gaining fame in the 1990s for blending figuration with abstraction. At a glance, Mr. Barceló’s arenas look like sandy orbs, but details emerge on closer inspection. Five years ago, collectors were paying as much as $6.3 million for works from this series, but the houses are asking far less now: Phillips wants at least $3.1 million for this 1990 work that its seller won at Sotheby’s for $3.7 million six years ago. For its part, Sotheby’s is asking at least $621,800 for Mr. Barceló’s 1990 “In the Middle,” and Christie’s expects its “Chest-level Pass,” from the same year, to sell for at least $1.2 million.

2. NEW YORK - Asian Buyers Do Half Their Auction Business in Europe or the US
Sotheby’s earnings call has this data on the importance of Asian buyers to the overall art market:

48% of purchases by Asian clients took place outside of our Hong Kong salesroom, a trend that we began to see in 2013;And of the top ten works sold by Sotheby’s in 2016, half were purchased by buyers from Asia.Moreover, we are very pleased that our relationship with our new largest shareholder has already been helpful to us in China.

3. NEW YORK - New Report Projects Art Market Growth in 2017—Here’s Why
Here’s a sentiment you probably haven’t heard in awhile: “2017 may actually be a very stable, nice year.”

That’s the conclusion drawn by Doug Woodham, former Christie’s president of the Americas, from this year’s ArtTactic Global Art Market Outlook, released this week. Amidst the current political turmoil and economic uncertainty, he said, the art market could be an island of stability.
Of course, art market players aren’t oblivious to the current state of affairs; political and economic uncertainty ranked highest on 2017’s list of risks to the art market. And while stock markets have been rising despite the unexpected results of the Brexit referendum and the U.S. election, “there’s also a deeply emotional aspect” to art buying, said Anders Petterson, founder and managing director of ArtTactic, noting that the global art-collecting elite could be feeling shaken by geopolitical events.

Still, the overall tone, which surveyed 182 art-world participants, including collectors, advisors, dealers, and auction house professionals, was what you might call “cautiously optimistic.” Here are five key takeaways from the report.
Things are looking up

The survey found a positive outlook across all 10 regional markets it surveyed, with the most positive sentiment emanating from Africa, South Asia, the U.S., and Latin America. Overall, 59% of those surveyed described the global outlook for 2017 as positive, and only 8% as negative. That’s a substantial 18-percentage-point increase in optimistic sentiment from January 2016, but a marginally less rosy outlook than two years prior, when 66% of those surveyed were optimistic about the prospects for what turned out to be a disappointing year.
Many factors are in place to further induce the “wealth effect” that can bolster art buying, especially in the U.S., the largest art market by value. Those include rising equity markets, as well as rising home prices and low unemployment. The International Monetary Fund recently increased its forecasted GDP growth in the U.S. to 2.3% in 2017 and 2.5% in 2018. And an improving macroeconomic environment could give collectors additional psychological impetus to buy.

“Art is entirely a discretionary purchase,” said Woodham. “People need to feel comfortable with their wealth position to buy art.” Furthermore, the current low-interest rate environment makes a non-interest-bearing asset like art more attractive to own, although he warns that could shift if interest rates move up significantly, something the U.S. Federal Reserve has indicated is on the horizon.

One last reason for the optimism? It can’t possibly get any worse than 2016. Last year “was quite a difficult, challenging year for the art market,” said Petterson, and many art market players feel “the market has bottomed out.”
The lower end of the market could stabilize

Optimism regarding the more accessible segment of the art market—works priced below $10,000—swelled for 2017, rising to 56% from 44% in 2016. Woodham said some of that momentum could be driven by what he calls “nesters,” people are looking to fill the walls of a newly bought or renovated property.
“They live in a world where they’re aware of art and they want to own some meaningful art,” he said, such as a print or a work by an emerging artist.

Optimism grew in every segment except at the very top. There are several explanations for this, one being that supply for works about $1 million may take longer to recover than demand at lower price points and that collectors may feel comfortable enough in a rising market to move away from relatively low-risk masterworks and back to pieces in the middle of the market and by emerging artists.
The top end is flattening

Meanwhile, at the high end of the market (works valued at $1 million and above), sentiment turned neutral. Just over half of those surveyed saw that segment flattening out in 2017, compared with a third in 2016. A smaller share was optimistic that segment of the market will rise, down to 37% from 46%.

Woodham said a series of auctions in which lots sold at their minimum bid is keeping discretionary sellers on the sidelines. Those who can afford to hold on to their works are likely waiting for a major sign of confidence in the market before jumping back in, or are looking to private sales where they have more control over pricing.
Uncertainty looms in the background

Political and economic uncertainty are once again the headline risks for 2017, only this year they switched places (for 2016, economic uncertainty was at the top). The name “Trump” appears eight times in ArtTactic’s 15-page report, and it cites “a new level of political and economic uncertainty” that “is likely to dominate the world in 2017, something that could have serious ramifications for the confidence in the art market in years to come.” The report also highlights rising populism across Europe and its influence in upcoming elections in France, Germany, and the Netherlands as factors likely to intensify the political uncertainty in the air.

Art businesses continue to pursue strategic opportunities in other markets

In 2016, auction sales of modern and contemporary art in the U.S. and U.K. dropped by 30% and 41%, respectively, according to the report. Although sentiment was still mostly positive-to-neutral for those two major markets, Petterson said he saw auction houses and large galleries looking to build up their presence in other regions, and target specific buyers from emerging markets. He cited the rescheduling this year of the auction houses’ February London sales to avoid clashing with Chinese New Year celebrations as one way they were adjusting.“There are these signs of opportunities in the market despite the difficult political environment,” he said.And despite the anti-globalization sentiment (“global citizen” has almost become a pejorative, Petterson, a Norwegian living in London, noted), it is institutions like Christie’s or Sotheby’s that are best poised to pursue a global strategy, thanks to their existing global footprints and their staffs’ wide-ranging expertise.“To compete in today’s world, where you need a presence in loads of markets [and the ability to] adapt to many buyers’ motivations, you have to have resources and the auction houses probably have the upper hand at the moment,” he said.Blue-chip galleries are putting up a good fight, too, through art fairs and global expansions, but he noted this type of hyper-competitive environment put smaller and medium-sized galleries at a disadvantage. Instead, one sees “a small group of very big galleries dominating the marketplace, then it’s a very long drop down” to the second tier.
Looking ahead

When the theme of the year is uncertainty, it’s definitionally hard to say what the future holds. There are a few signs that hint at where the market could head. Christie’s reported that nearly one-third of its buyers in 2016 were new ones, up from 5% in 2015, according to the New York Times. This could suggest that the house is finding success in its pursuit of collectors from new markets. Another hopeful data point in a year that saw a 16% decline in overall sales was its 109% growth in online-only sales, which reached £49.8 million (still a tiny share of the total £4 billion the house sold last year).

In the meantime, the art market has forces pulling it in two directions. On the upside, there’s the likelihood that a lucky few will benefit from a business-friendly environment in the U.S., stoking their appetite for buying. On the downside, geopolitical risks are scattered across the global landscape, from the U.S.’s erratic foreign policy and mercurial tax reform strategy, to Brexit’s murky outcome, to the threat of terrorism and conflict.

“The political uncertainty is hanging over us,” said Petterson. “If it plays out badly, then it will have an impact. If it just sits there, then the market will just plod along.”
4. NEW YORK - Art Market Predictions 2017
Apollo’s regular round-up of art market headlines and comment. To kick off the year, seven industry figures look back at the major art market surprises of 2016 and place their bets for the year ahead. Visit Apollo Collector Services for expert advice on navigating the art market.

Jussi Pylkkanen
President of Europe and the Middle East, Christie’s
Your biggest surprise of 2016?
That an Old Master, Rubens’ Lot and His Daughters, came dangerously close to being the most expensive painting sold at auction all year. It was eventually edged into third place by a great Monet and a market-making De Kooning (which was the picture that defined the shift in taste to Post-War a decade ago). However the historic pair of Rembrandts, which sold privately to the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum actually made Christie’s biggest price of the year, so Old Masters came out on top in the end. Moral of the story: The art world is very simple, in any era and in any economic climate, the greatest artworks by the greatest artists generate record prices – forget the period. In 2017, Rembrandt eclipsed Monet, De Kooning and Rubens.

A prediction for 2017?
Significant paintings will come to market in 2017 and break records for leading artists. This is a seller’s market and with a constrained supply, buyers will compete heavily for the best.

What would you bet £50 won’t happen in 2017?
That the Chinese market will falter – Asian collectors are set to be the biggest buyers in 2017.
Melanie Gerlis
Financial Times art market correspondent
Your biggest surprise of 2016?
For me the biggest surprise happened less than a fortnight into the year: Sotheby’s spending $50 million upfront (potentially $85 million) on essentially three people, when it bought the art advisory business Art Agency, Partners.

A prediction for 2017?
That one major auction house ­– Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Phillips – will change ownership.

What would you bet £50 won’t happen in 2017?
I would bet £500 on the fact that transparency won’t particularly improve in the art market in 2017. For all the talk about big data and breaking down the private market barriers, it’s going to take longer than 12 months.
Isabelle Paagman
European Head of Private Sales, Contemporary, Sotheby’s

Your biggest surprise of 2016?
2016 was a year of surprises, with political events both in Europe and the US, but the resilience of the art market despite such great uncertainty really stood out. On a personal note, arriving at work and seeing queues around the block in anticipation of the Bowie exhibition was an unexpected treat.

A prediction for 2017?
I’m confident we’ll see a tremendous year for women artists at the very top of the art market, building on recent outstanding results such as the remarkable Jenny Saville canvas that captivated the room at our contemporary auction in London last June.

What would you bet £50 won’t happen in 2017?
Whatever surprises 2017 might have in might have in store, there certainly won’t be any shortage of exciting and thought-provoking new art. With both the Venice Biennale and Documenta opening in the spring we’ll see new artistic talents emerge, and compelling exhibitions that respond to the momentous social and political changes taking place across the globe. 
Patrick van Maris

Your biggest surprise of 2016?
We were always confident the launch of TEFAF New York would be successful, however the feedback from our exhibitors, the collectors and the international press exceeded our wildest expectations. It felt like a true triumph. New York City and TEFAF prove to be a match made in art market heaven.
A prediction for 2017?
In 2017 we will see further consolidation with an even stronger emphasis on quality and authenticity.

What would you bet £50 won’t happen in 2017?
I think Brexit will not have a negative impact on London as the number one European art trading hub.

Edward Dolman
Chairman and CEO, Phillips

Your biggest surprise of 2016?
Despite being a year of consolidation, our evening auctions in New York, London and Hong Kong did not pass by without excitement. Phillips tested the masterpiece market with a famously vandalised Roy Lichtenstein, Nudes in Mirror [1994] which had undergone a meticulous restoration and sold for $21.5 million.

A prediction for 2017?
Regardless of a smaller supply, we saw increased strength in active participation across our sales which leads us to believe 2017 will be a stronger year. This will be particularly notable in Asia, as we continue to see a significant transformation in the buying habits of Asian collectors, who are becoming increasingly interested in art from around the world.

What would you bet £50 won’t happen in 2017?
Despite continued political and economic uncertainty, I would bet that art sales in 2017 will not be less than 2016. I expect the market to return to growth.

Kate Bryan
Head of Collections, Soho House and Co.

Your biggest surprise of 2016?
How little the overall health of the market was affected by the combined doom of Brexit and Trump! Yes, there was a clear downturn that was well documented but upon reflection I am astounded at the general resilience of the global contemporary art market – we have never seen an age like this.

A prediction for 2017?
The continued growth of Latin American art markets, and rightfully so. There were new records set in 2016 in the major auctions houses. More interestingly, on a local level I saw more gallery shows, talk about art fairs in the region and a better understanding of and attitude toward this market generally.

What would you bet £50 won’t happen in 2017?
Collectors crying out ‘we need more art fairs’ and artists proclaiming ‘I wish Donald Trump would be my Pope Julius II’.
Matthew Girling
Global CEO of Bonhams

Your biggest surprise of 2016?
I knew that the Chinese art market would bounce back, but was greatly heartened by the strength of its recovery.
A prediction for 2017?
From my viewpoint in New York I predict that the ultra high net worth individuals will still look to art as a great place to invest their money despite the uncertainty, but there will be an extra emphasis on quality, connoisseurship and provenance. Also that areas that are currently undervalued – such as Op Art and the work of women artists – will continue their steady march upwards.

What would you bet £50 won’t happen in 2017?
If we’ve learnt anything from 2016, it is that all bets are off!

5. LONDON _ London Sales Cycle Steady from 2016 at $593m, Down ~40% from 2015

Max Ernst, Portrait érotique voilé (1.5-2.5m GBP)

The Wall Street Journal offers a tally on the upcoming sales in London. The pre-sale total is slightly below the previous year but down 40% from the boom year of 2015.

The Journal insists on describing this as a market slump. Given what we know about several factors related to the sales in those years—the macroeconomic environment and the aggressive competition between auction houses for property—the current market may be closer to a sustainable one.

The key factor—which we discuss in this AMMpro post—is whether the broader market has moved in a different direction:

London’s latest round is set to kick off Tuesday, with Sotheby’s, Christie’s and the smaller house Phillips expecting to sell at least $593 million worth of impressionist, modern and contemporary art combined, down 4.4% from a similar, $620 million series held a year ago.

6. LONDON - Art Market’s Slump Gets Worse in 2016
The art market continued to stumble in 2016, with London-based auction house Christie’s reporting a 27% drop in sales

The art market sank into a deeper slump last year, with London-based auction house Christie’s International PLC saying Wednesday it sold £4 billion, or $5.4 billion, of art last year, a 27% decline from a year earlier—and a 36% drop from the market’s peak two years ago.

Christie’s total included $4.4 billion in auction sales, down 32% from the year before. The drop was partly offset by a boost in privately brokered art sales, as more collectors sought to sell their art discreetly rather than risk putting pieces up for public bid. Christie’s sold $935.5 million privately, up 10% from a year earlier.

Rival Sotheby’s, based in New York, auctioned $4.1 billion last year, down 30% from the year before. Sotheby’s will release its consolidated sale totals later this month. Boutique house Phillips said it auctioned $500 million in art last year, down 1.5% from 2015, and privately sold an additional $67.8 million of art.

Fewer art trophies filtered on to the market last year, but masterworks that did fared well. These included Claude Monet’s “Grainstack,” an 1891 view of a harvested field that Denver stock picker Tom Marsico bought for $12 million in 2002 and resold for $81.4 million at Christie’s in New York in November. Christie’s also sold a $66.3 million Willem de Kooning, “Untitled XXV,” and a $58.2 million Peter Paul Rubens, “Lot and his Daughters.” Sotheby’s sold Pablo Picasso’s cubist portrait of a “Seated Woman” for $63.6 million.

Overall, sales were down across several key categories, with Christie’s selling $1.3 billion in contemporary art, down 41% from a year earlier. Its sales of impressionist and modern art—a category it now lumps in with modern British, American and Latin-American art—fell 50% to $997 million. Sales of luxury goods such as jewelry, watches and wine fell 3% to $735 million. Asian art sales fell 14% to $633 million.

Sales perked up in other areas, though. Christie’s sales of Old Master paintings, along with 19th-century art and Russian art, grew 31% to $312 million. The house racked up $217 million in sales of art online—a category that includes online bidding in live auctions as well as online-only auctions. Taken separately, the online-only sales totaled $67 million, up 84%.

In terms of geography, Christie’s sold $2 billion worth of art in the U.S., or about 44% of the house’s offerings. Christie’s Asia sold $705.8 million worth of art, or 16% of the house’s offerings overall, and the house sold around $1.8 billion worth of art across Europe, the Middle East, Russia and India last year, or about 40% of its offerings.I

Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s new chief executive, called last year “challenging,” but said he sees signs of a turnaround. About a third of Christie’s bidders last year were first-timers, he said, an influx that could bolster competition. What’s more, he said, 79% of the house’s total offerings found buyers last year, a sell-through rate that he labeled “solid.” (The privately held company hasn’t divulged overall sell-through rates for previous years.)

Mr. Cerutti said Christie’s plans to invest more in collector hotspots like Beijing and Los Angeles. The art market faces a major test with a series of sales in London that start Feb. 28.

Corrections & Amplifications
Phillips auctioned $500 million in art last year, plus an additional $67.8 million in private sales. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Philllips’s total sales for 2016 were $500 million. Christie’s sold $2 billion worth of art in the U.S., or about 44% of the house’s offerings. Christie’s Asia sold $705.8 million worth of art, or 16% of the house’s offerings overall, and the house sold around $1.8 billion worth of art across Europe, the Middle East, Russia and India last year, or about 40% of its offerings. An earlier version of this article gave incorrect percentages of the total. (February 9, 2017)

No comments: