Solid or Inconstant? Where is the art market headed?

Phillips made a respectable $57 million, marking an increase of almost 25% over 2021, which is slightly higher than 2020. The good result was achieved despite the absence of an expensive headliner of the type from Phillips in recent sales cycles, and despite only one new record. by David Hockney Self-portrait on the terrace1984, led the sale, grossing $6.6 million, less than the average estimate, and Issy Wood set a new high of $599,035 with Chalet2019. In addition, the auction house was pressured by its Russian owner, Mercury Group, and announced that the proceeds from the sale would be donated to the Ukrainian Red Cross.

The jitters that were palpable in Phillips’ sale likely stemmed from his unfavorable stance as the world prepared to tighten the screws around Russia, but there was something lackluster about all the selling that took place over the week. last. It could also be the result of the war and the art world’s somewhat justified bad conscience to continue its show without restraint, even if its options are limited. It could also be anxiety stemming from global financial markets fluctuating in increasingly dangerous and erratic movements with no reassurance in sight. And this could be the result of both the previous options coupled with the heartaches peculiar to the art market, which seems to have lost interest in the pioneers and revolutionaries of art history, seeking instead what is hot and trendy and, above all, which give a quick return in a short time.

Vincent van Gogh, A Pair of Lovers (Eglogue in Provence), 1888. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Whereas once artists coming to the secondary market for the first time could expect their lots to sell at best within the bounds of the estimate, today less than three or four times the high estimate is disappointing. The remains of the evening sales, in the form of withdrawn and unsold lots, are not works by overpriced or little-known artists, but by Monets, Pissarros, Warhols, Polkes, Dubuffets, Richters and even mid-level Banksys . These names always represent the top lots at these auctions, and there have always been works that did not find a buyer at auction, including from these artistic giants, but the gap between the sale rates of blue chips and emerging markets sell-out rates, as well as the competition they attract, continue to grow, even as price differentials disappear.

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