Insiders know the art world can be a law unto itself.
Outsiders, we realize, cannot comprehend the ultra-exclusive environment where crudely drawn paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat of childishly comic figures exceed $100 million.
How can an ordinary person understand an auction when well-heeled buyers battle to push up prices of a Picasso by $1 million or more a time? Each increment is enough to buy a home or pension.
The saleroom can be a small world, and this spring, collectors will be looking inward at the Monet and Hockney works in rival auctions. The question may be who, of a small number of usual-suspect collectors known to many of the others, will be buying bragging rights with these works. These people are our readers and friends: we know them well and share their love for art.
For all the introversion, this art crowd can look outward too, getting nervous about external political or financial uncertainty. Stock-market crashes have resulted in even billionaire collectors holding back from big purchases. In 2019, there is certainly unease over Britain leaving the European Union and the U.S. government shutdown.
That said, there is room for optimism that the market will survive and even thrive. In this edition of Art+Auction, we see that in interviews from around the world.
Spain, for example, may have fewer worries about Brexit. The director of ARCOmadrid, Carlos Urroz, tells us about the Spanish capital city’s art fair coming up. Similarly, Jagdip Jagpal, the director of the India Art Fair, speaks of her vision for the future, while Touria El Glaoui, the founder of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, discusses its evolution. The gallerist Tim Van Laere also sees expansion and is preparing to open a new architect-designed space in Antwerp.
The latest column by the art historian Michael Prodger takes a close look at the German art market, led by the top-priced quartet of Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke. Prodger analyzes the millions of data points in the Blouin Art Sales Index to reveal those with the strongest commercial potential.
Whatever happens with prices and sales, “art is long and life is short.” We look at exhibitions of work that will endure long after its creators, collectors and curators have passed. One of the most extraordinary shows is at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin: a vast array of works from the collection of Friedrich Christian Flick.
We will also continue to watch how Brexit bites. A weaker euro and British pound may restrict the activities of some European and especially U.K. collectors. It may make locally denominated auctions in Europe look even better value for other nations. The art world will continue watching over its shoulder, perhaps safe in the knowledge that there are mixed views on what will happen, not a universal verdict of doom.
Subscribe to Art+Auction February 2019 at www.blouinsubscriptions.com