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Kobel's Art Weekly

Ihor Sarabieiev, Hague style; free via
Ihor Sarabieiev, Hague style; free via
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 12 2023

The Russian sanctions have made the art market one of the most regulated sectors, explains Paula Trommel in The Art Newspaper: "The traditional refrain about the art market has been that it is the last unregulated market. This refrain was never entirely accurate, but now it is less and less correct. Not only do various laws like sanctions and bans apply to the art market more broadly, but much of the art market is subject to anti-money laundering regulations. The US has already enacted the Anti-Money Laundering Act, adding antiquities traders to the US money laundering regulated sector, and a law adding art and collectibles is under consideration. So, bit by bit, it seems that, in fact, the art market is indeed becoming more regulated."

In Asia, Art Basel is already active and quite successful with a new business model that resembles Art Basel Cities, reports Melanie Gerlis in the Financial Times: "From Art Basel’s side, there is clearly money to be made through lending its advice and network to alternative art fairs and cultural events such as gallery weeks. One concern, though, is that they risk cannibalising their own brand. Horowitz says this is something they are 'of course conscious of' but says that, so far, their external projects have proved additive. He points out that the 177 exhibitors at this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong include 28 from Japan, up from 19 in 2022 and 12 the previous year. The proportion has risen even since the fair’s boom year of 2019, when 23 of its 242 galleries came from the country. 'It’s not an exact science, but it is notable that participation [from Japan] is up since Art Week Tokyo,' Horowitz says."

Over the past four years, Sotheby's has seen the greatest growth in sales of lots above the $20 million mark, Karen K. Ho summarises the findings of the Sotheby's Insight Report (PDF) by ArtTactic for Artnews: "The $1 million benchmark is significant because while the financial figure for art works represents just 4% of lots sold, the report notes that this tier 'accounts for 74% of total sales by value in the collecting categories covered in this report'. While private sales of art at $1 million or greater fell to $1.05 billion in 2022, down from the peak of $1.41 billion in 2020, the report noted that is still 30.8% higher than that tier of sales in 2019 at $803.5 million. Two specific trends cited in the report are the rise of Asian collectors just before the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing number of bidders from Generation X and the Millennial generation."

The current New York auction results show an interesting phenomenon, anaylises Marion Maneker at Artelligence: "The three auction houses offered and sold in New York more lots in 2023 than they did in 2022. That kept sale totals close to the previous year even as the average prices dropped. Another way to say that is that demand from art buyers did not wane. It merely shifted to lower value works. Buyers bought more of those lower value works to uphold the year-over-year sale totals. This is an important market signal. We've discussed the presumption that an economic recession would prompt a 'flight to quality'. Yet in these results we're seeing something slightly different. One sales cycle, especially one that focuses on lower value works, does not determine a trend. But it is an interesting market signal." Looked at another way, there is now more art for the money.

In 2021, the US arts and cultural industries grew at twice the rate of the overall economy, Tessa Solomon summarises a report by the National Endowment for the Arts at Artnews: "According to the report, between 2020 and 2021, the total economic value contributed by arts and cultural industries increased by 13.7 percent, vastly surpassing the gains of the broader US economy, which grew by just 5.9 percent over the same period. By the end of 2021, the arts industries made up 4.4 percent of the nation's overall gross domestic product (GDP). Of the 35 industries studied, ten-including independent performers and artists and performing arts organizations-recorded significant growth within 2021, however none reached 2019-levels of economic output. The NEA also reported that just under 4.9 million people were employed in the arts industries in 2021, representing an increase from 2020, when the pandemic curtailed economic activity in the arts worldwide. That too was still below the 5.2 million employed in 2019."

The closure of several art and antiques fairs in the UK - most notably Masterpiece - is a sign of a deep-seated crisis in the industry, believes Scott Reyburn in The Art Newspaper: "Britain's post-Thatcherite economic settlement has made it difficult for the country's professional classes to maintain long-accustomed standards of living. Now, if they have a few thousand to spare, they spend it on helping their children get on Britain's ever-steepening housing ladder, not on art or antiques. Their priorities became different,' says Charles Plante, a London-based dealer in 18th- and 19th-century works on paper in the £1,000-£5,000 range, who was previously a successful exhibitor at Olympia's summer Art & Antiques Fair. He has transferred his business to the US and now concentrates on the San Francisco Fall Show in October. There's more money in America, and there's an appreciation of objects and connoisseurship,' he says. 'I'm not finding that in England.'"

Christian Herchenröder describes the change in the market for Old Masters on the basis of the current Tefaf and recent auction results for the Handelsblatt of 17 March: "There are just not so many Old Master paintings of the first guard of artists any more. This means that the 30 to 40-year-old new buyers from the start-up camp, who, according to Paris dealer Maurizio Nobile, spend up to 100,000 euros on a new acquisition, have to concentrate on high-quality paintings by less prominent masters. This promotes connoisseurship. Still lifes in the medium price category hang in Maastricht, but also more portraits than before. They are the showpieces of a change in taste."

Bettina Wohlfarth offers a look at this week's Paris auction highlights in the FAZ of 18 March: "Next week, Paris will once again celebrate the subtle diversity of drawing with the 'Salon du Dessin'. As every year, old master auctions with works on paper, but also paintings and sculptures accompany the exquisite fair for enthusiasts. On 22 March, Artcurial will be offering a top-class programme. More than 200 works will be auctioned, ranging from Florentine Renaissance artists like Luca Penni to artists of the second half of the 19th century such as the Frankfurt painter Otto Scholderer. The total estimate is eight million euros."

Women in leading positions at auction houses are presented by Susanne Schreiber with Sabine Spindler in a new series in the Handelsblatt: "Helena Newman is an exceptional case. Worldwide, most employees in auction houses are women - at the reception, in acquisition, as experts, catalogue authors, restorers or accountants. But as auctioneers on the rostrum, the kind of pulpit that gives the auctioneer an overview of the room and the clientele, women were only seen in isolated cases for a long time. And when they did, the domain of women was the charity and day auctions. They have only recently conquered the prestigious evening auctions with million-dollar surcharges."

The reporting by Deutschlandfunk Kultur about the allegedly questionable awarding of Corona grants so angers the BVDG (rightly) that it has lodged a complaint with the radio council of Deutschlandradio, reports Monopol: "The BVDG sees 'several aspects of serious press work violated' in the contributions. The choice of terms with negative connotations such as 'backroom', 'cultural billions', 'lobbying', for example, suggested that something was not right with the funding. There was also no inhibition against the colportage of untruths', says the complaint to the radio council of Deutschlandfunk, which is publicly available. 'This was joined by ignorance of publicly available information and advice from experts to shed light on the market situation and the structure of funding programmes in the pandemic. The situation of medium-sized and small galleries, which predominantly shape the art market, was almost completely ignored, contrary to the claims of the editors.'"

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