A Tale of Two Art Markets – artmarketblog.com
A changed art market doesn’t necessarily mean an art market that is any worse off but because of the particular changes that the art market has undergone over the past 6-9 months things appear worse than they really are. Much worse. Yes, I am of the opinion that the art market has not gone to the dogs and continues to progress with strength and vigour albeit on a different trajectory to that of twelve months ago. I am, however, also a realist and am well aware that there are sectors of the art market that have experienced a reduction in demand and value. The two hardest hit areas of the art market are the market for contemporary art and the auction industry which also happen to be the two most visible, publicised and hyped areas of the market.
With so much emphasis and importance being placed on the contemporary art market and the auction industry if either appears to go even slightly pear shaped there will be an inevitably and disproportionately high level of concern and distress. The portion of the entire art market most people use to make judgments regarding the health of the entire art market tells only part of the story. A part of the story that is not necessarily representative of the whole story. It is therefore important to realise that the portion of the art market that most people don’t see and aren’t exposed to is huge but because it is not visible it tends to be forgotten or ignored.
When the art market reached the ridiculous highs of 2007/2008 many people’s perception of what a healthy art market is were somewhat skewed. For so long the art market was blessed with good fortune, so long in fact that many of those involved in the art market appear to have forgotten what the art market is all about. Know what I mean? I sure hope so. The art market that we experienced at the height of the boom was not the real art market. It was an artificial, dishonest and deceitful market that was progressing like an out of control train running at 200% which had to eventually return to it’s normal pace. For so long that train had a straight piece of track that allowed it to continue out of control but thankfully it eventually came to a junction and had to slow down to a normal pace.
It is interesting to note that one of the characteristics of the current art market is an increase in the number of private sales being conducted and a decrease in the popularity of selling/buying at auction. What many people are interpreting as a decline in the number of works being bought and sold may in fact just be a change in the preferred method of sale/purchase. It is factors like this that one must take into consideration when making an assessment of the health of the art market if an accurate assessment is going to be made. The auction industry and the contemporary art market can no longer be relied upon as being a true representation of the health of the entire art market.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.
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