A New Sentimental Art Market Era Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com
As the tainted artistic fruits of the great Lehman Bros. deception begin new lives in the hands of far less unscrupulous owners, the art market continues along a path of reminiscence and reflection that I believe signals a new, yet perhaps to be short lived, era of sentimentality. The beginning of a series of much hyped fire sales of the Lehman Bros. art collection could be seen as the start of a symbolic cleansing – the moment that the unjustifiable excesses of a once heady contemporary driven art market were finally laid to rest (at least for now). Ironically, one of the most successful lots of the recent Sotheby’s auction of Lehman Bros. items was a Lehman Bros. sign from their UK office which fetched 34,000 pounds, more than 15 times the 2-3,000 pound estimate.
The Lehman Bros. sale revealed two types of sentimentalism driving the market. Firstly, there is the sentimentality being exhibited by those investors and collectors whose unpleasant experience of the contemporary art market correction has evoked a highly nostalgic response that seeks the safety and stability of the historically familiar. Secondly, there is the sentimentality being exhibited by more optimistic collectors and investors who see events such as the collapse of Lehman Bros. as historically significant events, albeit significant in a negative way, that offer the potentially profitable opportunity to acquire a souvenir of the event to be sold some time in the future. The successful sale of the Lehman Bros. signs, and the popularity of works from the Lehman Bros. collection that were by more established artists with proven track records, is evidence of both forms of sentimentalism.
Although the runaway train that was the contemporary art market has now well and truly been run off the rails, the wounds of the fall from grace that the contemporary art market experienced are only just beginning to heal. In the absence of the superficial and short lived pleasures that the contemporary art market provided, and with memories of the correction still fresh in their minds, collectors and investors appear to be seeking solace in the familiarity and safety of the past. It is important to note that not all contemporary artists have been completely abandoned; however, the focus has shifted from freshly created works by emerging talent to more classic and historically important works by the doyens of the contemporary art world – the classic contemporary if you like. In other words, when I refer to a focus on the past, I am referring to the recent past as well as the distant past.
The recent major auctions of Asian art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s are a good example of the focus on classic antiquarian objects as well as the classic contemporary with buyers paying well above the odds for works considered to be historically significant and museum worthy. With regards to the wider Asian art market, there has been a noticeable process of maturation that has been taking place over the last year or so. This maturation has seen collectors and investors develop a more considered and connoisseurial approach to the art market. According to a spokesperson from Sotheby’s regarding the recent Asia week sales “The market is getting mature and we can see the results. Collectors want important historical works from big artists”. Another Sotheby’s expert, Kevin Ching (Sotheby’s CEO in Asia), mentioned in a press release that “Along with Asia’s growing wealth is a hunger for collecting and owning great art that is broader and deeper than ever before. There is also a healthy and growing awareness that the experience of collecting requires an investment of passion that can pay great aesthetic dividends”
To be continued…………..
**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