Autumn has finally arrived and whilst for most that signals impending dark nights, leaves on the line and pre-Christmas stress. For the art market, it’s a reawakening after the summer out. We take a look the recent upsurge in activity and encouraging sales at the major auction houses this autumn.
Off the back of Frieze and the flurry of other contemporary art fairs and sales that have occurred, London’s contemporary and modern commercial gallery scene is thriving, with a raft of new openings and expansions this autumn.
As a double-dip recession looms and the economic downturn shows no sign of ending, neither does the appetite of art collectors for works by stable contemporary artists and for the graffiti artist Banksy.
At two of the world’s most renowned houses, Bonham’s and Sotheby’s, this Autumn has seen significant rises in prices achieved. In September, Bonham’s saw a packed saleroom and competitive bidding across the board for their bi-annual Urban Art sale. With a selling rate at 96% by value and 86% by lot, the auction saw some significant prices achieved.
All original works sold very well, but additionally there was a significant interest and jump in prices for printed editions. Banksy's ‘Pulp Fiction’ sold for £9,375 – some £4,000 above the asking price and CND Soldiers fetched an astonishing £13,750 - £8,000 over the estimate. All 40 lots were snapped-up in just an hour-and-a-half, underlining the current appetite for graffiti-based works.
But why is the London market for art now apparently in such rude health?
In the last decade, London became a magnet for collectors from emerging markets such as Russia, the Middle East and India. During that time centres like New York, in order to connect with such destinations, have discovered that the best way of connecting with Turkish, Israeli and Lebanese collectors is via London.
Surprisingly, there have been very few gallery closures in London in recent years, unlike the 2009 New York rout when at least 30 spaces shut down. US art adviser Allan Schwartzman recently told The Art Newspaper: “What has been validated in the last few rounds of uncertainty is that art is a genuine form of capital.”
Pilar Ordovas, who previously worked at Christie’s, agrees, saying, “through times of uncertainty we have seen the demand for the very best works of art continue to grow”.
Ultimately, art is a tangible commodity and during such times in which we currently live, having an asset that one owns outright that can be held, touched and personally kept safe is more valuable than the uncertainty that often comes with numbers on a computer screen, miniscule interest earned and the volatility of depending on external international factors.
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