The Turnaround?

What, the Dow’s up a lousy 20% and suddenly everyone’s buying art again?  In the past investors usually behaved as if they consider art more as a hedge to the securities market, or so it has usually seemed to me.   (Of course for a collector, the investment potential of art is mostly a rationalization—we collectors know the main reason to acquire art is for love!)  I suppose the correct answer is both yes and no.  Art serves as an investment hedge up to a point, but when spending has frozen across the board in times of uncertainty such as these, then very little of anything gets sold.  Prior to last week, the Picasso print market had seemed to have lost more steam than the drawings and paintings market.  This makes sense, since prints generally attract a clientele of lesser means than collectors of Picasso paintings.  Much has already been written about the fact paintings sales have continued to be very strong throughout this recession, at least as far as the most important and prized paintings are concerned.    A number of modern and contemporary artists have set world’s records with these choice works.  (By contrast, many mediocre and even more poor works went unsold.)

But the tide may be turning, if last week’s print sales are any indication. Sotheby’s London sale sold 78% of its Picasso lots, and at Christie’s London, Picasso fared even better, with 87% of the lots sold.  Perhaps these stats are less meaningful because of the small size of the sales: only 23 Picassos in each of them (not counting the afters, which don’t really count, as far as I’m concerned).  Even I bid on a print. (And didn’t get it!)  Well, let’s hope these sales augur well for the economy at large.