General Thoughts on the Art Market

Arts & Culture: Since the beginning of 2010 there has been a continuous increase in the number of people looking to acquire works of art — a very good sign. In addition, gallery sales are increasing and the number of works appearing on the public market is growing. However, I truly believe that we are getting close to a tipping point in the public arena. While results for the best works offered in the auctions have astounded many, the overall sell-through rates, at least over the past two months, have not been very strong; and this is something that needs to be addressed.

As I stated before, summer was always a slow time in the art market; a time for dealers and auctioneers to reassess the prior year's results and plan for the fall, winter and spring seasons. What we are seeing today, at least in the public forums, is a desire to extend the art market's action through the summer months — in my humble opinion, this is a bad move and results from some recent sales prove it.

Before the prognosticators can truly claim that the art market is in a VERY healthy cycle, we need to see strong buying at all levels and in all segments of the art market. What we have today, at least in the public arena, are trophy hunters who make headlines by paying extremely high prices for what they perceive are rare, once in a lifetime, works of art (and it is funny that after some amazing price is achieved for an artist, more rare, never to be seen again, works appear). In addition, it is often these few works that make the difference between a great sale, a good sale and a disaster — as I have always said: what a difference a painting or two can make.

I am still going to stress this point: the auction rooms need to hold back on the number of sales they produce; in other words, do not flood the market with more works than it can comfortably absorb. They must create fewer, stronger and more important sales that will produce really impressive results with better sell-through rates; and once the world economy has recovered and strong buying is seen in all levels of the market, then look to expand the number of sales.

Howard L. Rehs
Rehs Galleries, Inc.
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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