Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sector broadening in the art market

The global art boom continues, as wealthy buyers from around the world continue to purchase rare and expensive works of contemporary, impressionist, and modern art.

But according to recent reports in the Financial Times and The Economist, buyers now seem favor works by lesser known artists in the impressionist and modern art movements.

According to the FT, newly rich buyers will be seeking out bright, bold paintings from German expressionists and Italian futurist painters.

""Two years ago, top lots in the impressionist and modern art sales were familiar brands: the Monets, Picassos and Van Goghs. More recently, bolder, brasher artworks by lesser-known artists have been netting record prices and, this summer, German expressionists and Italian futurists will be among the most sought-after catches.

Despite a popular perception that contemporary art sales account for the top prices, the impressionist and modern auctions, which broadly sell art from 1870-1945, are where the serious money is spent. The art auction record was achieved in one of these sales when Picasso's "Garçon à la Pipe" sold at Sotheby's New York in 2004 for $104m. Understanding developments in the impressionist and modern sales, the specialists agree, is key to decoding trends in the upper levels of the art market as a whole.

Helena Newman, Sotheby's vice-chairman of impressionist and modern art, says she has seen a steady influx of new bidders over the past two years. Seven per cent of buyers at her sale in February were new clients, who snapped up 15 per cent of the lots, focusing on bright, bold painting. She sums up their passion with a neat neologism: "Wallpower"."

Italian futurist Gino Severini, whose painting, "Danseuse", is pictured above, provides the model for this new phase of the art boom. "Danseuse" will be prominently highlighted in an upcoming Sotheby's auction, where the painting is expected to set a new record price for the artist. The Economist considers works like these likely to be among the "blue chip names of the future".

"During a buoyant market, houses can stick with identified trends and simply persuade holders of old stalwarts such as Picasso and the French Impressionists, for example, to part with their popular pictures. A far more complex and riskier challenge is trying to hand-pick the blue-chip names of the future.

Sotheby's appears to have had some success in creating a list of new “must-haves” for billionaires. A look at its recent major auctions of 20th-century paintings shows a number of artists who were fairly obscure just two years ago now command prices on par with the best-known artists of the period."

So as the art boom marches forward, record high prices are now being seen for works by previously lesser-known artists. And as both the FT and The Economist point out, as the market for these works has broadened, so has the international pool of art buyers.

Related articles and posts:

"Sotheby's contemporary art sale - slideshow" - Telegraph.

"The next blue chip" - The Economist.

"Works with Wallpower" - Financial Times.

"That Booming Art Market" - Financial Sense Online.