“Every year the bar is raised a little bit higher and people manage to jump over it.”
Guy Jennings, Managing Director, The Fine Art Group
Susan Moore looks at the year in review, the numerous auction records that were set and the $2 billion that changed hands during the New York sales in November. The art market can only speculate what the total amount would look like if private sales figures were added. Two of the most impressive works of the season were David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) which broke the record for a living artist at $90.3 million with premium, and Edward Hopper’s Chop Suey at $91.9 million. If we look back to the equivalent sale period of 2017 (excluding the astounding result of the Salvator Mundi) totaled $1.83 billion. Moore highlights that even in the lower-value day auctions the average sales prices increased.
The Fine Art Group’s Guy Jennings reflected, “Every year the bar is raised a little bit higher and people manage to jump over it.” This constant raising of the bar arguably stems from the voracious competition between the auction houses to secure major consignments and the increasingly demanding expectations of consigners, which Moore attributes as an art world euphemism for greed, of consigners. She speculates that the continued willingness to pay these inflated prices is due to the dismal performance of other asset-class investments in the past year and the continued growth and success of art as an asset class, which acts as an excellent tool for diversifying one’s portfolio. That is not to say that the November auction season was full of drama and excitement. The sale of the exceptional collection of American modernist painting amassed by Barney Ebsworth lacked a sense of occasion until Chop Suey came to the block. All in all there was a sense of bidders playing it safe in the face of the suspected economic downturn.