Stunning sales suggest a booming but cautious art market – SURFACE

With a series of high-value auctions bringing Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips over $2.5 billion so far in 2022, the art market is hot. In May alone, Christie’s auctioned a 1964 Andy Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe for $195 million, the highest price for a 20th-century work. Holdings from the bitter divorce between billionaire couple Harry and Linda Macklowe, a 65-piece collection featuring blue-chip names like Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko and Alberto Giacometti, recently fetched Sotheby’s a staggering $922 million to become the most valuable collection ever sold. at auction.

These auctions join a Phillips auction of a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat for $95 million, a sale of Pablo Picasso at Sotheby’s for $67.5 million and two works by Mark Rothko sold at Christie’s for $116 million. .4 million. The market boom also ventures beyond fine art: the world’s largest blue diamond ever auctioned for $57.5 million at Sotheby’s and Mercedes just raked in $142 million for a rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz SLR Coupe, making it the most expensive vehicle sale in history.

What’s fueling the surge in sales? Economic uncertainty, above all. According to art historian and former dealer Bendor Grosvenor, the recent high volume of sales demonstrates that wealthy buyers view art as a “long-term hedge as an asset” in a turbulent financial market. Stocks plunged last week – the Dow Jones fell 1,161 points on Wednesday, the biggest one-day drop since the start of Covid-19 – after major retailers reported disappointing first-quarter results, waving a flag red for the current economic outlook amid concerns over inflation, high gas prices, supply chain issues and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“Either art is one of the few assets that seems to have good immunological protection against recession, or inflation is much stronger than we think”, explains Loic Gouzer, former specialist at Christie’s. New York Times. “The art market feels very close to the spare parts market – good works are hard to find and very expensive.”

Collectors don’t just frequent marquee auctions; New York Art Week fairs also saw strong sales despite Covid concerns about resuming in-person events. Frieze New York may have had a tighter footprint at The Shed compared to the sprawling old white tent on Randall’s Island, but strong sales have been consistent with the widespread sentiment among collectors that the fairs were returning in “full pre-force.” -pandemic”, Partner of Perrotin New York Peggy Leboeuf told artsy. Perrotin’s opening day stand quickly sold out during the preview, placing works by Daniel Arsham, Bharti Kher and Paola Pivi with new collectors and existing clients. TEFAF reported a similar atmosphere; Massimo De Carlo’s stand, dedicated to LA artist Aaron Garber Maikovska, sold out within the first hour of the fair.

The booming art market seems to have taken a step back from the start of the pandemic. The annual Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report noted that global art sales have recovered strongly since the start of Covid, with sales reaching $65.1 billion in 2021, an increase of 29%. compared to the previous year. According to Doug Woodham, managing partner of Art Fiduciary Advisors, “art tends to be a lagging market,” he told the New York Times. “Speculative capital flowed into the market in the late 1980s, then stocks crashed in 1990 [after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait]. The art market didn’t crash until 1991.” Meanwhile, the once-booming NFT market is suffering, seeing a steep 92% drop in transactions from the same period. last year and recently lost $1 trillion in value, prompting comparisons of the cryptocurrency to the dot-com bust of the late 1990s.

Sallie R. Loera