February 2013: January Art Market Report


Detail of “Solo Scenes, 1997–1998”, part of Dieter Roth|Björn Roth inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth's newest space in Chelsea, New York.


By Shireen Lohrasbe



ON JANUARY 22ND, MANHATTAN-BASED KENO AUCTIONS held its “Important American Furniture, Paintings, Folk art and Decorative Arts European Paintings” sale. The auction totaled $2.35 Million within its pre-estimate range of $1.73–$2.97M. According to Keno’s website, “87% of the lots sold to 164 buyers, one third of whom were successful through the Internet. Online bidding participation was the strongest to date.”

THE 18TH EDITION OF LA ART SHOW transpired January 23–27, attracting 35,000 visitors over four days. This year LAAS was subdivided into four sections: Modern & Contemporary, Historic & Traditional, Vintage Posters, and the IFPDA Los Angeles Fine Print Fair. The fair 
Programming included: “The Back Story of Art”—a panel on provenance, appraisals and valuation. Moderated by The Art Economist’s Bruce Helander, the panel consisted of private dealer Richard Polsky and professor Don Thompson. Both panelists are also acclaimed writers on the art world (and market). Polsky is author of “I Bought Andy Warhol”, “I Sold Andy Warhol (too soon)” and “The Art Prophets,” while Thompson wrote “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art.”

THE 4TH EDITION OF ART LOS ANGELES CONTEMPORARY coincided with LAAS, January 24–27. This year, ALAC included 70 participant exhibitors and drew approximately 8,000 visitors.

THE 16TH ART PALM BEACH ran January 25–28. With 80 international participant galleries showcasing 500+ artists from 13 countries, APB is considered Florida’s premiere art fair. Fair programming integrated an extensive lecture series with notables speakers such as: Bonnie Clearwater, the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; art world icon Anthony Haden-Guest; Chris Boot, Director of Aperture Foundation; and dealer Jim Kempner.



CHRISTIE’S PARIS ENDED 2012 with €231.4 Million in sales, €37.9M in private auctions—a 12.7% increase from 2011. The auction house saw an impressive 80.5% selling rate in terms of lots, 89.5% in value and 70% of lots exceeding their highest estimate. Christie’s Paris also set 38 new world records for artists in 2012.

LAST FALL, ARTPRICE INCREMENTALLY changed its databases to freeware, transferring millions of sales entries into the public domain. Moreover, Artprice has now delved into online brokerage operations, forming partnerships with organizations such as Art Stage Singapore.

SINGAPORE IS KNOWN as the “second gate” to the Asian art market after Hong Kong. Luckily, the country’s foremost fair, Art Stage Singapore, runs four months earlier than Hong Kong’s Art HK, drawing different audiences at separate times.

THE 3RD ART STAGE SINGAPORE transpired January 24–27. This year the fair showcased 131 galleries (80% from Asia Pacific; 20% from elsewhere) with special focus on Indonesia. Sales highlights included: an iron sculpture by Antony Gormley sold for USD$472,000 at White Cube; an abstract painting by Sean Scully sold for $500,000 at London-based Timothy Taylor Gallery; and in the Indonesian Pavilion, an installation piece by the husband and wife duo Indieguerrillas found a buyer for $21,000.

BRUSSELS IS FAST BECOMING a major contemporary art destination. Case in point: The 58th Brussels Antiques and Fine Arts Fair ran January 19–27. This year BAAF presented 128 galleries (53% Belgium-based), accompanied by numerous sales. Furthermore, last December, Belgian auction house Cornette de Saint Cyr held a contemporary art and design sale that fetched €1,002,807 (approximately USD$1.34M).

THE INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART held the “ICA Quickfire: The End of the Art World...?”, January 19 in London. ICA’s Executive Director Gregor Muir moderated the Quickfire on “the profound sea change presently gripping the art world”, covering topics like the collapse of the middle market with panelists: Georgina Adam, Art Correspondent at the Financial Times and Editor-at-Large of The Art Newspaper; JJ Charlesworth, Associate Editor at ArtReview; and, London-based dealers Danielle Horn and James Mayor. 
In regards to art’s ascension into a luxury goods classification , Georgina Adam stated: "We have lost the tiered effect of the market... the new super rich in Russia, China, India and the Middle East have a hunger for ‘branded goods’ that [is] increasing the size of the market” (as published in Mirror Online).

NOW IN ITS 9TH YEAR, WENG FINE ART AG is a leading financial firm specializing in art trading. Since becoming a publicly-traded art company in January 2012 (offering 500,000 shares on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange), Weng’s stocks have skyrocketed in value, with a capital gain of 307% over the past year. According to Art Media Agency, “From 4 February 2013 onwards, Weng Fine Art AG (WFA) shares will no longer be traded in Frankfurt only, but also on ‘Xetra,’ electronic platform of the Deutsche Börse. The Designated Sponsoring on Xetra will be taken over by WGZ BANK, who will become the new capital market partner of the art dealership that has been listed in Frankfurt for over a year.”

       In a recent ArtTactic podcast, CEO Rüdiger Weng stated WFA’S success has attracted hundreds of new investors and additional business. When asked if other companies will follow suit, Weng explained that it is unlikely other companies will delve into public art trading. Traditionally-speaking the art business has been built on secrecy and opacity. Weng’s profits come with nearly a decade of commitment and more importantly, transparency—something still unfamiliar to most of the art world.

ACCORDING TO ARTTACTIC, their recent Art Market Confidence Survey reports a 25% “improved economic outlook” in 2012. The Survey states that there is 80% confidence in works priced $1 Million+, 40% for works priced between $500K–$1M and 19% for works at $100K–$500K. The high-end remains robust while the middle market is suffering. “Although the overall Confidence for the Post-war and Contemporary art market is up in the last 6 months, it is clear that this continues to be driven by the high-end of the market, particularly prices above $1 million, but also the $500,000 to $1 million category. There is a distinct drop in confidence for the $100,000- $500,000 price segment and below, which suggests notably more uncertainty in the middle–to lower end of the contemporary art market. The high-end of the market (lots selling for more than $1 million) accounted for 88% of the total Post-War and Contemporary Evening auction sales value in 2012 (and 43% in terms of lots sold).”

ANOTHER ARTTACTIC PODCAST with Michael Moses presented a similar outlook. The Mei Moses Art Index compares art with other financial assets such as the S&P 500, based on auction results. According to Moses, there was a 3.28% decline in 2012 regarding repeat sales at auction in contemporary and modern art. Although art has outperformed equities over the past ten years (with an average return of 7.3%), growing conservatism among buyers means plummeting sales at auction. In 2012, buyers gave preference to blue-chip art—artists with proven track records—rather than purchasing art by emergent, trendier names. 



Shireen Lohrasbe

Shireen holds a BBA in Design & Management from Parsons The New School for Design and an MA in Art Business from Sotheby's Institute of Art, New York. She has contributed to several online publications including Art Observed, Quintessentially Art, and Whitewall Magazine. Shireen is a regular art market contributor at Whitehot Magazine.

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