What are the new price levels for contemporary art?

CONTEMPORARY ART PRICES

Sotheby’s will hold its Contemporary Art sales in London on 5-6 February 2009 , the first set since the November round when the financial crisis triggered weaker demand, slower bidding and lower prices across the art market.  As markets for other more liquid investable assets continue to plummet, art collectors have had to wait for this next round of leading auction house sales for a steer.

So what are the new price levels which were established  in the November suite of sales? And what is the outlook for the upcoming Spring sales?

In December 2008 Colin Gleadall said in the Telegraph “this month we have seen Impressionist, modern and contemporary art sales falling back to levels set two or three years ago”. And Sotheby’s agrees.

As Tobias Berger explains in the video Private ViewContemporary Art Market – A Candid Look from the Inside, the November suite of sales was held against a ‘dramatically different’ financial environment.

While this slickly-produced video is clearly a tool for promotion which gives more emphasis to confidence-boosting than candour, Sotheby’s say the new price levels for the contemporary art market are equivalent to those of 2004-2006. Of course the claim is heavily-caveated and only applies to ‘rare’, ‘great’, ‘fresh’ works of ‘impeccable provenance and quality’ .

But what next for prices? In their video the Sotheby’s team makes a brave – and of course rather more implicit than directly expressed – case for this new level being the potential bottom. But words about pent-up demand from well-informed long-established collectors who are now apparently willing to return to the market after the implied excesses of 2007 and 2008 are not entirely convincing. Still…..it is a courageous call when other investable assets have fallen to prices last seen more than 10 years ago.

To see the Sotheby’s video Private View – Contemporary Art market


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