Whitehot Magazine

March 2011: March/ April Art Market Report

Photo: screenshot courtesy of Colbert Nation.

MARCH & APRIL 2011: Art Market Report

FROM ONE SIDE OF THE MARKET TO THE OTHER… If the London sales of late February were any indicator, early March’s art week in New York proved much more successful than anticipated. The Armory Show and accompanying satellite fairs, lured in large bustling crowds with spectacular visuals and events, on the radar of mainstream culture, party photos and jam-packed calendars strewn all over the internet. TEFAF too, Europe’s leading art and antique’s fair received rave reviews and remarkable numbers. And auctions across the globe set new records. The top three houses (Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips de Pury) sold close to $1 billion in Contemporary art, and Impressionist and Modern works –a number that will surely surpassed by the end of the spring season.

New markets have also emerged. Apart from BRIC countries (Brazil, Russian, India, and China), Belgium, Mexico, and Romania’s respective art markets are evermore robust as is Dubai –a hotbed destination for big money transactions. These collective happenings paint a picture of massive recovery for the art market, albeit selective recovery, reserved for the upper echelons of the art world or those with large enough bank accounts.


NEW YORK CITY’S MAYOR BLOOMBERG helped commemorate the opening of the 13th edition of The Armory Show. The fair attracted approximately 65,000 visitors in total and highlights included: a beautiful series of lithographs from this year’s commissioned artist Gabriel Kuri; three works by Jacob Kassay (an emerging artist with an already established secondary market) at Eleven Rivington’s booth; Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, and Damien Hirst at White Cube; the entire inventory at BlainSouthern (artists Jonas Burgert, Matt Collishaw, and Rachel Howard); Spanierman Modern’s single-artist booth of Dan Christensen; Yayoi Kusama at Victoria Miro Gallery; and Ivan Navarro’s bright white neon fence lining the booth of Paul Kasmin Gallery.

This year also marked better programming, curatorial clout, and corporate sponsorship from Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and UniCredit Bank, as well as continued partnership with The Volta Show (which also received much adulation). Although various prestigious galleries opted to participate in other fairs such as ADAA: The Art Show, the influx of new, mostly Latin American participants proved successful in terms of sales and added a fresh perspective to the somewhat monotonous drone of the show. They were ideal replacements of the over seventy galleries that did not return. The Armory’s Director of Operations and Exhibitor Relations, Michael Hall stated “Pace or Petzel, or even Johann Konig, will be back when it feels right for them. In the meantime other galleries, like 303 Gallery and Sies + Hoke, are stepping up and taking the major spaces, while new and exciting galleries are joining us each year such as Gonzalez y Gonzalez from Chile, or Evergreene from Geneva.”

The show’s “Open Forum” series included the panel “Art Funds: Is Now the Time?”, moderated by Michael Sellinger of The Art Fund Association and Cottelston Advisors and bringing together the expertise of Sandy Kemper of The Collectors Fund, Judd Tully of Art + Auction Magazine, and Michael Plummer of Artvest Partners. Through heated debate and discussion, the panel presented the current benefits and barriers to entry of art funds as they reemerge into the market (after many failed attempts in the past). Divergent views on the role of art funds were expressed. Some panelists believed that funds compiled solely of top-tier artworks as guaranteed return of investment were in poor taste, while others argued that this was the only assurance they had to attract backers. Art is an illiquid, highly volatile asset class that serves as more of an aesthete’s pleasure than an investor’s dream. The average fund’s ten-year lifespan does very little to establish an artist’s value, or rather financial rapport.

Nevertheless, art funds of all sorts are on the rise. As a ‘trifecta of benefits’, art funds educate investors and encourage them to appreciate the actual art, as much as they serve as another form of investment to diversify their portfolios. Like gold, art is an alternative asset class that can be an effective hedge against inflation. For a comprehensive argument for and against art funds, visit [http://video.ft.com/v/815627381001/Art-Funds-Art-as-an-asset-class]

Apart from The Armory Show, The Volta Show, and The Art Show, several satellite fairs including: Pulse, Scope, Elizabeth Dee’s Independent, Fountain, and PooL also drew in major crowds and press coverage. Edward Winkleman’s Moving Image: A New Art Fair of Contemporary Video also attracted a relatively substantial viewership considering its small roster of 22 galleries and fairly low-profile inaugural launch.

INDEPENDENT CURATOR’S INTERNATIONAL hosted a four-day conference on March 10 titled The Now Museum: Contemporary Art, Curating Histories, Alternative Models. Speakers included Richard Armstrong, the Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Philippe Vergne, the Director of the Dia Art Foundation; Lisa Phillips, the Director at New Museum; Massimiliano Gioni, the Associate Director at New Museum; artist Dara Birnbaum and other art professionals. Video footage of the panels can be viewed on iCI’s website [http://ici-exhibitions.org/index.php/ocp/the_now_museum]

CHRISTIE’S AND PERFORMA teamed up on March 11 to celebrate “First Open,” Christie's auction of Post-War and Contemporary Art preview and the upcoming Performa 11, the fourth biennial of visual art performance running from November 1-20, 2011 in New York. Artist Kalup Linzy gave a lively performance at the joint celebration, which resulted in the highest grossing post-recession auction preview to-date. Highlights included works by Jean Dubuffet, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Christorpher Wool, and Roy Lichtenstein. The first set of Performa 11 commissions include five performance artists: Ragnar Kjartansson, Shirin Neshat, Elmgreen & Dragset, lona rozeal brown, and Guy Maddin.

THE ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY ART DEALERS ran March 17-20 at Park Avenue Armory. Over 75 international galleries specializing in fine art photography took part in the four-day event and more than ten thousand visitors passed through the halls. Several galleries lay claim to have done better at AIPAD than the previous week at The Armory Show. The mix of celebrity attendance (in the likes of reporter Anderson Cooper, socialite Anthony Haden-Guest, and megadealer Larry Gagosian) and representatives from major museums (including The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Tate Britain) likely means that next year will be even more exciting as the medium rises in popularity among fine art connoisseurs.

THE ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST HOME DESIGN SHOW March 17-20 marked its tenth year of success at Pier 94 in New York. The show presented a wide range of cool gizmos, furnishings, culinary confections, antiques, and fine art and partnered with The Artist Project New York on Pier 92 which featured a “selection of unrepresented international artists in New York City.”

THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION launched its “Teach for Amerika” arts education campaign at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. The cross-country tour began its “five-week, 11-city, coast-to-coast road trip” on March 29, hoping to encourage art students to define the own future rather than remain reliant on federal funding and institutions to guide them. BHQF presented its manifesto supported by a Q&A session and accompanying panel discussion –a quirky spectacle filled with ideas and idealisms, and colorful balloons lining the school halls reminiscent more of a college party than an official rally against mis-education.

LAST MONTH STEPHEN COLBERT went on what he called an ‘aesthetic odyssey’ facetiously titled “Stephen Colbert’s Raging Art-On.” Determined to sell his “Portrait 5 Stephen(s)” –a work tweaked by Shepard Fairey, signed by Andres Serrano, and looked at by Frank Stella– the three-part video series is worth a gander if only to see the charming Simon de Pury engage in silly but professional antics with Mr. Colbert at Colbert Nation [http://www.colbertnation.com/]

THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF A STUDIO VISIT was held April 13 at Lower East Side Printshop. Led by the talented artist Mary Temple, the workshop encouraged etiquette among artists hosting private viewings of their work. An über professional, Temple suggested spending time tidying up one’s studio to help viewers truly ‘see’ the art as well as following proper protocol for these types of interactions (for example, sending a thank-you letter in the mail post-visit). For a comprehensive list of upcoming workshops and courses visit: http://www.printshop.org/

ARTELLIGENCE ONE-DAY CONFERENCE, “Understanding Art as an Asset,” packed in a number of notable speakers including Anders Petterson of ArtTactic, Michael Plummer of Artvest, Matthew Knight of AXA Art Insurance, Michael Sellinger of Cottelston Advisors, Sandy Kemper of The Collectors Fund, and Javier Lumbreras of Artemundi Global Fund. Topics of discussion included “Is the Warhol Market a Proxy for the Art Market?” and “Is this the Beginning of the Asian Century in Art?” The conference also held a feature presentation by megacollector and entrepreneur Adam Lindemann and his wife Amalia Dayan founder of Art Partners.

THE ASSOCIATION OF PROFESSIONAL ART ADVISORS (APAA) held a panel April 14 on BRIC countries (an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China, and their similarly shared state of new economic advancements). The panelists included: Haro Cambusyan, a Turkish video art collector; Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s Vice Chairman of Asian Art; Sandhini Poddar, Guggenheim Assistant Curator of Asian Art; and Ana Sokoloff, Latin American art advisor, moderated by the always lovely and engaging Lindsay Pollock. A video of the panel discussion will be available shortly at APAA [http://www.artadvisors.org]

Philllips de Pury London’s "BRIC" sales in early April auctioned off hundreds of lots from the four countries, many of which sold at their low estimates with Chinese artists faring the best overall. The Financial Times reported that “the Brics have beaten Europe when it comes to billionaires. It was the first time since Forbes began tracking the wealthiest people on the planet 25 years ago that Brazil, India, Russia and China collectively overtook Europe.” Thus, these regions’ art markets are in constant flux, increasing incrementally as they continue to grow in size and wealth.

ART CHICAGO THE INTERNATIONAL FAIR of Contemporary and Modern Art is the largest art event in the Midwest (April 29 – May 2, 2011). This year Art Chicago partnered with NEXT art fair backed by the marketing efforts of MMPI Art Group, which also consults The Armory Show and VOLTA NY. The joint fair hosted a variety of educational programming such as CONVERGE Chicago: Contemporary Curators Forum and other events such as “Breakfast at Christie's” hosted by ArtTable and organized by Geri Thomas, President of Thomas & Associates Inc.

THE FUTURE OF ART JOURNALISM was the title of a panel hosted by Marc Porter, President of Christie’s New York and its International Head of Corporate Communications, Toby Usnik. Moderated by Sree Sreenivasan, digital media professor at the Columbia Journalism School, the panel gathered together the expertise of Lindsay Pollock, Editor-in-Chief of Art in America; Eric Gibson, Editor of Leisure & Arts at The Wall Street Journal; and Dennis Scholl, Vice President of the Knight Foundation and Miami-based collector.

Initially, the discussion revolved around the questionable credibility of blogs as a leading form of arts reporting, online. This caused a bit of a stir considering Lindsay Pollock made her mark in the art world with her blog, Art Market Views [http://lindsaypollock.com/]. The discussion then turned to the demise of traditional editorial. As arts journalism (and standards of journalistic integrity) moves online, reporters must navigate the “webosphere” with different forms of media delivery mechanisms. Unfortunately, there is no Wikipedia “cleanup” function for online reportage. Coupled with the fact that the art market remains highly opaque and unregulated, much of the data available online is simply unreliable. Video streaming of the informative panel can be viewed here: http://www.christies.com/features/webcasts/future-of-arts-journalism-2011/

THE TWO LEADING AUCTION HOUSES SOTHEBY’S AND CHRISTIE’S are both predicted to set new records in the contemporary market (as usual) during Spring auction season in May. Christie’s New York is putting up a 1986 "Self-Portrait" by Andy Warhol, created right before his death predicted to sell for $40 million. According to Amy Cappellazo, Head of Christie’s International, "It is a rare event that a work of this grandeur and stature comes to market."

According to ArtTactic, Phillips de Pury's upcoming Evening Sale “has a cumulative mean estimate of $103 Million.” As a point of comparison, the 2010 event brought in $37.9 million. Note: The WM May report, coming out at the end of next month will provide a comprehensive review of the auction results.


TEFAF Maastricht 2011 “the world’s leading art and antiques fair” ran March 18-27. This year the fair featured 260 galleries from 16 countries, showcasing 30,000 unique objects and museum worthy works valued at over 2Billion euros in the likes of Rembrandt and Renoir, featuring an extensive Miró exhibition and substantial Asian focus. The preview attracted a crowd of approximately ten thousand who were served 1800 bottles of champagne, 3500 bottles of wine, and 120,000 hors d’oeuvres. In total, TEFAF attracted over 75,000 visitors and one robbery. Highlights included sales of works by El Anatsui, Donald Judd, Gerard Richter, Jean Michel Basquiat. Joan Miro, and Christophe van de Weghe.

TEFAF commissioned a report titled “The Global Art Market in 2010: Crisis and Recovery” conducted by Dr. Clare McAndrew author of “Fine Art and High Finance: Expert Advice on the Economics of Ownership”. The report revealed that the US took the lead, with a 34% share of all global art-related transactions. However, McAndrew stipulated the statistics may be skewed considering dealers’ reluctance to reveal their sales figures. As quasi-gatekeepers dealers use severe discretion when divulging their numbers. The study also concluded that dealers generate 51 percent of all global art sales versus 49 percent generated by auction houses.

THE THIRD EDITION OF THE SINGAPORE BIENNIALE launch on the 13th of March. The “Open House” theme plays with the juxtaposition of the public versus private sphere and features 150 works by 63 artists from 30 countries across various exhibition venues including two national museums and an airport.

THE FIFTH EDITION OF ART DUBAI ran March 21-24. This year, the ruler of Dubai, Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, inaugurated the worldclass art fair, which exhibited 82 galleries from 34 countries and included works from more than 500 artists and 50 museum groups. "There is no other fair that is quite as international in its scope," said Antonia Carver, the new director of Art Dubai. The region remains highly traditional regarding freedom of expression and many booths at the fair were urged to hide certain artworks in the presence of the Sheik and other dignitaries. Although Dubai’s art scene is driven by women professionals and considered a hub of contemporary art, there are cultural differences to be considered. Luckily, the compliant behavior of fair participants resulted in another successful year for Art Dubai, with many mid-range priced pieces selling within the first few hours at its vernissage.

CHRISTIE’S DUBAI is the leading auction house of the region. The Managing Director Michael Jeha recently stated that “the art market has benefited from global market uncertainty. There has been a flight to art …with Middle Eastern contemporary art experiencing strong growth.” On average, a third of all auction sales in Dubai are bought by an international community of collectors and the other two thirds consist of local buyers of Middle Easter and European descent with a growing influx from Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Qatar, and Saudi. Furthermore, “galleries are opening at such a rapid rate… about five to 50 in a few years.” Sales in 2010 went up 153 percent from 2009. And just this past month, auction records were set at Christie’s Dubai for a 42 artists. "The art market has also matured and deepened as the appeal for works from this rich and diverse part of the world has grown in stature both locally and on the international stage," he added.

Bonhams threw an “Orientalist” art sale in Dubai, and more specifically held its first photography sale there last week. Highlights included Rudolf Ernst ($456,000), Etienne Dinet ($186,000), and Shirin Neshat’s “Mystified and Camille Zacharia’s Cultivate your Garden” which sold for $36,000 respectively. The Regional Director of the Middle East Guy Vesey stated, “Bonhams is delighted with the success of tonight’s Photographs auction, it has not only confirmed the interest in the region for photography but also for international works of art.”

ZONA MACO, MEXICO’S CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR is the most international event of its kind in Latin America. This year the director and co-founder Zelika Garcia established an exclusive collector’s schedule and better overall programming over the course of four days (April 6-10). Among its impressive gallery and artist lineup, Flash Art reported that the fair was the first to launch a prominent project initiated by the curator Adriano Pedrosa, “a feminist theme for the Zona Maco Sur section… a chance to show the southern hemisphere from the perspective of women artists.”

Notable participating galleries included: Massimo de Carlo (Milan), Eigen + Art (Berlin), Hauser & Wirth (New York), Takashi Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki (New York), Krinzinger (Austria), Lisson (London), Revolver Gallery (Lima), Nara Roesler (Brazil), and David Zwirner (New York) featuring the works of Francis Alÿs, Sandro Cinto, Martin Creed, Marcel Dzama, Christian Jankowski, Anish Kapoor, Damin Ortega, and Monika Sosnowska. And prominent attendees included: artists Rirkrit Tiravanija, Gabriel Orozco, and Doris Saledo; collector Alberto de la Cruz; dealers Sam Orlofsky, Andrew Kreps, and Honor Fraser; curator Maria Lind; Art Basel co-director Marc Spiegler; and critic Linda Yablonsky.

RUSSIA IS ANOTHER MIGHTY CONTENDER in the international art scene with regards to its collectors and artists. According to a recent article published in The St. Petersburg Times, Russians are investing in art abroad and within the country, bidding at auctions across the globe and buying up homeland master works. According to Olga Vaigatcheva, Sotheby’s head of Russian works of art and the Faberge department, “the art market is subject to the same influences as other markets… There will be always demand for and interest in Russian art.” Most of the interest lies in Russian Old Masters, heirloom jewelry, Faberge objects (such as eggs and flowers), and objects from the Soviet communist regime “propaganda porcelain” from 1920s.

Sobranie.Photoeffect is the Russia’s first major art fund to hit the Moscow stock exchange established by Agana, an asset management firm. According to the Financial Times, “Sobranie.Photoeffect's model is a bit different from other art funds. Instead of raising money from wealthy individuals to buy art, it has obtained its works from a group of anonymous Russian collectors.” The ressurection of the art fund is still in a curious phase whereby people have yet to form an opinion on this resurrected asset class proliferating throughout the world.

One of Moscow’s leading Russian art advocates is Dasha Zhukova, now a household name (at least in the art world). The gorgeous and utterly sophisticated founder of Garage Center for Contemporary Culture recently teamed up with Kathy Grayson of The Hole (and former Deitch Projects director) for a group titled “New York Minute.” The show is an updated extension of a 2009 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome (MACRO) in Rome based on the themes of street culture and neo-abstractionism. According to Grayson’s press release the more than fifty artists have “all exhibited together, partied together, dated each other, studied together or painted together.”

THE ROMANIAN ART MARKET continues to grow. Artmark auction house and the Bucharest Stock Exhange “released the second edition of the index of the Romanian art market, as “an absolutely necessary instrument of transparency for the art market quotes, in the context of an accelerated development on the art market, and as art’s positioning as an alternative investment.” Launched in 2009, the art index provides a yearly update on artworks from over one thousand Romanian artists using its own set of metrics to calculate each of their respective annual yields and tracking all applicable transactions.

THE 29th EDITION OF ART BRUSSELS featured 170 international galleries (a quarter Belgian) and VIP collector's tote bags designed by Rob Pruitt, accompanied by the fifth edition of the Artist Projects curated by Mousse Contemporary Art Magazine. Highlights included many New York artists including Michael Delucia at Eleven Rivington’s booth and Matthew Day Jackson at Grimm Gallery (Amsterdam). Other notable works included: Leigh Ledare, Matthew Brannon, and David Rhodes at Office Baroque Gallery (Antwerp), Folkert de Jong at Galerie Fons Welters (Amsterdam), and Capitaine Lonchamps at Nadja Vilenne Gallery (Belgium).

CHINA CONTINUES TO DOMINATE several segments of global art market, more specifically in terms of buying at art fairs and auctions. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Clare McAndrew conducted a report for TEFAF that stated that China overtook Britain as the world's second biggest market for art and antiques, which “totaled almost six billion euros ($8.5 billion) in 2010.” China is number two, second to the United States as the largest contributor to the art market, bypassing the United Kingdom. According to Artprice, last year "China accounted for 33% of global Fine Art sales (paintings, installations, sculptures, drawings, photography, prints), versus 30% in the USA, 19 % in the UK and 5% in France."

China’s sudden insurgence into the art world is two-fold. Given the country’s rapid economic and social developments (particularly in the past few years), higher living standards among its elite class has led to more demand for consumption of cultural goods such as art. This has resulted in Chinese artists penetrating the global scene as well as Chinese collectors entering the bidding wars at auction.

The country also spearheaded the art fund revival. As stated by Artprice, “China seems to have been a pioneer in this field as the Chinese government launched in 2009 the Shenzen Cultural Assets and Equity Exchange (SZCAEE).” This type of direct government involvement and sometimes tyrannical interventions (think of the beloved Ai Wei Wei) stands in stark contrast to the unregulated, non-accountable American model (think Wallstreet). Unfortunately, cultural differences do not stop here. There have been recent reports of delinquent payments by Chinese buyers at auction. These delayed transfer of funds have resulted in several lawsuits filed by sellers, who have little pull in reclaiming their money through auction houses. But there are other reasons why Chinese buyers are slow to pay –China’s complex and somewhat dated banking system is unsuited for dealing with large sums of money.

OVERALL THE ART MARKET has rebounded. Thus far, 2011 is simply a continuation and an extension of 2007 pre-recession years, as if 2008-2010 served as some sort of mediator on reality, just to keep things in check. Although there’s an obvious natural flow to economics, its perpetual boom and bust cycle, few insiders or spectators predicted that the art market would bounce back so smoothly. As Michael Plummer, principal of Artvest recently stated “The speed of the art market's recovery is astonishing, but it's a differently revived market.” The integration into new financial pools is shaping its significance. According to the founder of Artprice Thierry Ehrmann, "We have seen a veritable revolution in the geopolitics of the global art market.”

*The Market Report serves as a summary of the global art market to accompany Whitehot Magazine.

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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