20/21 British Art Fair Report – artmarketblog.com
The 20/21 British Art Fair held at the Royal College of Art building was a great event that attracted plenty of admirers (and buyers) with a wide variety of fantastic art. Sales at the fair were reported to be quite good and the atmosphere was very positive. Most of what was on offer was the work of well known British modern artists such as Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherland, L.S.Lowry , Mary Feddon and Ivon Hitchens etc. , which would make sense considering that the market for contemporary art (21st century) has suffered so much. Perhaps the show should have been called the 20/20 British Art Fair instead of the 20/21 British Art Fair.
The Modern British market did not experience the same level of price inflation that other movements/markets experienced during the boom, and consequently did not suffer as much when the art market downturn took place. As a result, demand for top quality works by Modern British artists that are fresh to the market has remained high even though the number of works being sold at auction has dropped considerably. A major increase in demand for works by Modern British artists between 2006 and 2008 did produce a large spike in the number of works sold, but the market has since levelled out and is on a much less rapid and vertical trajectory.
The lack of an international profile combined with a primarily British clientele has somewhat limited the extent to which the Modern British market can grow. By no means are the British Modern artists any less talented or worthy of being purchased than their American or European counterparts. In fact, I would suggest that the British artists are not given anywhere near the recognition and praise that they deserve. Part of the problem is that the Modern British market is driven by discerning British collectors who are quite discreet and are generally not willing to pay any more for a work of art than they believe it is worth. A lot more visibility from collectors and buyers along with a considerably less reserved attitude to the contributions of their great Modern artists would go a long way to promoting the work of Modern British artists to a wider audience. The same enthusiasm for Modern British artists that was shown for the work of the YBA’s, for instance, is what is needed.
What has kept the market afloat is the fact that there is a high demand for top quality works which collectors are more willing to fight for and pay comparatively more for. More and more people are beginning to recognise the British Modern market as an undervalued and underappreciated market that hides relatively undiscovered talent. Once the art market recovers from the correction it will be interesting to see what happens.
**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.