Reflecting on the Art Market

Arts & Culture: Once again this past month's sales results have shown that fresh works, with a high degree of quality and reasonable estimates, are still selling for exceptional prices. What we have also witnessed are those less than stellar works (issues with condition, period, quality, etc.) are having problems finding buyers. The lesson to be learned: when the art market is in full swing again do yourself a favor and try to acquire those works that are among an artist's best. Be choosy. Do not give into the temptation to buy a work just because a certain artist painted it; and do your homework so you don't overpay for a work because the artist is one of the "hot" ones -- many of those previous "hot" artists spent their winter season in the Antarctic waiting for a serious summer thaw! And some of us are wondering in what future decade that might happen.

For the past five weeks we have been bombarded with reports in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, etc. Some of these prognosticators think the art market has yet to hit bottom, others believe it has stabilized and still others are noting the market's strength. I have found that the worst articles are written by people who have little long term experience in the art world; usually basing their opinions on a sale's final numbers and taking little to no account that quality, condition and freshness play a vital role in how a work of art will fare at auction. Gone are the times when almost anything will sell -- thank goodness! The auction rooms are having a difficult time getting the merchandise they need to create good sales; and those that do obtain fresh material did exceptionally well and those that did not paid the price.

As for the Big Picture, I do believe that the art markets will survive this current economic Tsunami far better than most markets. That being said, some of the sub art markets are going to be harder hit than others. I have been saying for some time that the Contemporary auction market was due for a correction -- well, that correction is upon us and for some it has been a rough ride. Results for the 19th century and Impressionist auctions have also been a little weak, but then again so have the offerings; however, the few good paintings that have come on the market made very impressive prices.

Howard L. Rehs
Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City
JustLuxe Contributor

Howard L. Rehs

After graduating from New York University in 1981, with a degree in Art History, I moved to London for a year to study and buy 19th century British Victorian art for our gallery. Since then my interests have included all schools of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, I am considered one of the leading art dealers in 19th century French Academic and Realist painting and the world's exp...(Read More)

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