Thursday, November 13, 2008

The November Art Anti-Auctions

Claes Oldenburg, "Fried egg in pan", 1961
Painted plaster and aluminum frying pan - 2 x 15.7 x 8 in.
Lot #189 - Est. $40-60k - Sold For $52,500

Saturday update: After taking a closer look at the results on and Chelsea Art it's clear that the fall auctions have been a disaster.Carol Vogel writes in the NY Times,
"The Warhol market has been disappointing all week, and Phillips was selling three undistinguished paintings. The first, “$,” a 1981 version of the artist’s dollar-sign image, was estimated at $350,000 to $450,000. (At Sotheby’s on Tuesday, “Dollar Sign,” from 1981, was put on the block at $2.5 million to $3.5 million. Three bottom feeders bid on it, and the designer Valentino bought it for $2 million.) On Thursday, not a hand went up, and “$” remained unsold, as did another Warhol, “Portrait of R. C. Gorman” from the 1980s, depicting an American Indian artist in profile. It was estimated at $400,000 to $600,000."
Three bottom feeders?? For this to be the case, we need to have established a bottom in the art market. We are nowhere close. The economic conditions are far worse that the 1990 period. Prices have at least another 25% of downside risk before one can expect any sort of stabilization.

This is not idle conjecture on my part, the art auction markets are intimately tied to the economy, and world economies are in a freefall. The US stock market has another 20% further to decline before there is even a chance of a recovery. See my other blog "FutureModern Finance" which tracks the US stockmarket for my ongoing commentary on the daily fluctuations.

Yes individual artworks, especially exceptional pieces, will potentially sell for good prices, but everyone in this business knows that the aggregate art prices were in the stratosphere and now they are going to come down. For a more exhaustive look at pricing trends, see my previous post State of the Art Market-Analysis where I examined the un-sustainability of certain price trends and what one might expect as a reasonable return over time.

There is no bottom in sight.

Sotheby's (NYSE:BID) is under pressure financially and its stock probably has an additional downside risk of about 50% (From $8.85 on 11/14 to the $4.30-$5.00 range, FYI, the 2007 high was $61.40)


Hans said...

I would not give a 100 for this, never liked Oldenburg... It is what it is. Good to see the "corrections" on the markets ;-)

Check from time to time the

We have some updates. Best regards, Hans

George said...

Hans, That's ok, it wasn't why I put the image up.

The newspaper headline after the 1929 Crash was "Wall Street Lays an Egg" and after looking at the auction results this week, it seemed appropriate.

The art auction markets are in a free fall and nowhere near a bottom yet. I didn't have time or all that much interest in writing much about it.

I do drop by your blog off an on.