We recently round-filed our old auction catalogues. They were displacing not just all the other books on the bookshelves, but they had even started crowding out the more animate inhabitants of our home. So speaking strictly from memory, this season’s Imp/Mod auction catalogues nonetheless look a lot thinner than yesteryear’s. What’s going on, you ask?
The explanation seems pretty straightforward, though I cannot prove it, at least not without going to some trouble: the Chinese and the Russians must have become less active in the market, and to a significant extent. I remember reading that in 2012, the Chinese accounted for 40% of the worldwide purchases at auction. It ain’t happenin’ now, folks. So the owners wishing to unload their art have naturally become hesitant. Yes, next week’s London sale finds a blockbuster Analytic Cubist painting at Sotheby’s, but that’s the only Picasso in their evening sale—usually there are several.
The good news is that prices seem to be holding steady. Again, just a gestalt, not a statistical analysis. At the top end at least, you all know about the recent $179M Picasso sale. (What you may not know is that it’s now hanging in our dining room. As if….)
You’d think this would therefore be an opportune time for collectors, at least those who remain active, to hunt for gems outside the auctions. But where else is there to look? Offhand I can’t say, but something tells me those gems must be hidden somewhere…perhaps even in plain sight!