A Period of Maturation for the American Art Market, Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com

cicada Charles Ephraim Burchfield A Period of Maturation for the American Art Market, Pt. 1   artmarketblog.comAlthough the art market in America has showed signs of strength and resilience over the past couple of years, the focus has been mainly on the sort of globally fashionable contemporary art that is typically pursued by wealthy socialites and celebrities. One of the signs that a regional art market is maturing and becoming more rational is a move towards less fashionable, more traditional art – particularly works by artists who have a more localised market as a result of region-specific subject matter or style.

Over the last year or so, the American art market has shown significant signs of development and maturation evinced by a greater focus on the work of artists (painters mainly) active during the early to mid 20th century whose work was characterised by patriotic subject matter realised in more traditional and poetic styles.  The artists I am referring to are those associated with Social Realism and American scene painting such as the artists of the Ashcan school.

The event that really confirmed my suspicions that the American art market was beginning to enter a phase of strength and rationality was the sale of Charles Ephraim Burchfield’s “Cicada song in the woods” for $70,000 against an estimate of $20,000 – 30,000 by the small regional Detroit-based auction house DuMouchelles Fine Arts Auctioneers and Estate Appraisal.  The small watercolour and crayon painting is a lovely example of the romantic depictions of nature that the artist was best known for.

It wasn’t just the price achieved for this painting that made the event so significant.  The fact that a relatively insignificant work of art by a lesser-known (internationally and in the context of the wider art market) artist was sold for such a high price by a small regional auction house is evidence that the more discerning and scholarly collectors and investors are becoming more active.  The high price achieved for Burchfield’s “Cicada song in the woods” suggests that a number of collectors or investors bid on the work and drove up the price.  Because the work was sold by such a small auction house, buyers not from the local area would had to have been alerted to the sale through their own research or by another collector.

to be continued……..

image: “Cicada song in the woods” by Charles Ephraim Burchfield

*Nicholas Forrest is a Sydney/London based art market analyst, art consultant and writer.  He is the founder of the Art Market Blog (artmarketblog.com) which offers independent commentaries as well as research and analysis on the current art market, and has recently been published in Fabrik magazine, Verve magazine, Visual Art Beat magazine, Australian Art Collector magazine, Art & Investment magazine and many others.  Nic has made several radio appearances (both nationally and internationally) as an art market expert and has received press from the likes of the New York Times, Conde Nast Portfolio and Times of London.

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