THE ART MARKET, REDUX

Here’s what’s been going on in the Picasso market, in broad brushstrokes, and as I see it.  A number of collectors have sat on the sidelines while waiting for the art market to crash and compelling bargains to appear.  Well, many prices have come down, and there have been occasional bargains.  But the bottom hasn’t yet fallen out of the market.  Instead, the major change that has occurred has been on the seller’s side.  Sellers with whom I regularly jawbone have held their prices steady or have modestly reduced them, on the theory that it would be a mistake to let wonderful things go for nothing when the economy is sure to turn around.

The effect of the market upon the auctions has been a bit different.  Auction houses are naturally applying downward pressure on their estimates and reserves, because for them, a “bought in” (unsold lot) is a worse fate than a lot that sells for a lower price than had been hoped.  Yet consignors are holding back, so that the auctions are very thin.  Since I blogged about the London print sales, the upcoming NY sales have come online (all but the Christie’s evening sale at the time of this writing) and seem rather unexciting, with very few paintings and drawings, most of them lackluster, and not many more prints.

By this point, buyers have come to realize that there are very few real bargains and they shouldn’t sit on the sidelines waiting for them to appear while letting great works slip through their hands.  After all, the limiting factor today as in recent decades is the availability of great works, not their price.  So buyers are once again looking for compelling works at reasonable prices.  At least that’s what a number of them have told me.  And my inbox is once again full of inquiries, which had all but stopped for several months.  As the Dow goes, so goes the art market?  Only up to a point, I believe, but let’s hope for everyone’s sake that both continue to rebound!

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