The beginning of this year was marked by rising prices and auction records for artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Claude Monet, but also falling sales in New York and London.
Scandals also stirred the art world, including both Sotheby’s and Christie’s being investigated for money-laundering. The investigation ended positively for the auction houses, with neither of them ultimately being charged, while Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman who was entangled in the story, also fought off the claims. Other reported incidents include a dispute between an American billionaire, Leon Black, and the royal family of Qatar over a Pablo Picasso sculpture. When it comes to the art market, the next year will follow some paths established in 2016, but exhibitions planned at MOMA and elsewhere will also stir the market in new directions.
So, here are the lists and statistics for 2016, as well as forecasts for 2017, while we also teased out certain dominant trends that shed some light on what we can expect next year.
CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET CONTINUES TO RISEThe number of contemporary artworks sold at auctions in 2016 totals tens of thousands. The market for this type of works has increased considerably over the last few decades, due to globalisation, internet auctions and sales, as well as an increasing number of museums that promote contemporary art. By looking at results since 2000, we can notice 14.7-fold increase in sales over the last 16 years. During the same period, the auction turnover reached an increase in volume of an astonishing 1,370%. Various factors contributed to this, including ease of access to information on art market, moving of sales and auctions online, an increase in the number of art buyers and their lower average age, as well as the expanding of the market to encompass India, South Africa, Asia, the Pacific Rim and South America. Fascinating data that more museums have been built between 2000 and 2014 than in the previous two centuries additionally explains the growth in the market, which is now also being spurred by the museum industry.
RENEWED INTEREST IN RUSSIAN ART
An exhibition of Russian art covering the period from 1912 to 1935 will be held at New York’s MOMA museum in 2017, commemorating the centenary of the October Revolution. Radical abstract works were produced during this period, including Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square. The Tate Modern in London is also planning two exhibitions for autumn 2017 that will focus on the Russian scene. Following these tendencies, the art market responded with an increase in prices, and in November 2016 an auction record was set for Alexander Rodchenko at Sotheby’s. His Construction No.95 sold for the hammer price of $4.4 million.
Claude Ruiz, the son of Pablo Picasso, describes the Russian avant-garde as revolutionary, and as a leap into the future. Perhaps this is what is causing art from Russia to move to the fore of market interests for 2017 – it represents the promise of a radical change that is needed now more than ever.
AFRICAIt has been a good year for art, especially from an African perspective. With “African Perspectives” at the New York Armory Show in March, curators Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba steered the focus towards 14 galleries that are presenting works from Africa and the Diaspora. Half a year later, the fourth edition of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair at London’s Somerset House attracted record numbers of visitors. And also the art fair AKAA (Also known as Africa) in Paris in November reported sales by all of the 30 galleries represented.
On the continent itself, the Cape Town Art Fair in February attracted major local names like Goodman, Stevenson and Momo, as well as international dealers from London, Italy and Germany.
The already successful Joburg Art Fair almost doubled its sales, while the still young Art X Lagos Fair in early November saw a significant number of works sold to mainly Nigerian collectors.
The success of these fairs reflects the growing interest in contemporary art production from Africa, both on the continent itself and abroad. Young and established collectors are banking on potential price increases. Others expand their international collections, with established names like El Anatsui, Yinka Shonibare, William Kentridge or Wangechi Mutu. At the same time, the success of the Beauté Congo Kitoko exhibition at Fondation tramadol Cartier in Paris also caused a sensation.
THE DELIBERATE USE OF AUCTION DATATwo recent purchases by Sotheby’s and Artnet of Mei Art Indices and Tutela Capital set the scene for what we can expect in 2017 when it comes to novel art market strategies. Interest in the collection and analysis of auction sales and prices data shows us the way that the art market plans to move forward. Mei Art Moses is a database company that follows trends on value changes of artworks over time, by following the repeat of auction sales. Tutela Capital, headed by Fabian Bocart, is also an analytical firm that deals with auction prices. While some criticised these moves, the financial world commended them, emphasising that data use will help understand how art fits into the broader financial market. For buyers, these purchases correspond with bigger plans for future development, including initiatives to attract new collectors and investors who would receive a clearer picture of risks and the status of the art market through this data. What remains uncharted, however, is the private sector and galleries that do not disclose their sales data, and this would be the next step for companies dealing with art to tackle.
STEADY INCREASE IN ONLINE SALESA painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold on Instagram for $24 million in November 2016, representing an unprecedented event that probably heralds a new era in online auctioning and sales. The painting was sold for more than triple the $7.3 million that it fetched at auction in 2007. So far, the annual rate of increase in online art market sales has been 24 per cent, and it is expected to reach $9.58 billion by 2020. Internet art buyers spent $155 million in 2016, which is a 20 per cent increase on the previous year. The background of buyers is also changing, with tech-savvy generations participating in online bids. Almost half of all internet buyers were new to auction houses that also set some records – Christie’s number of online-only buyers doubled in 2016.
FOCUS ON REGIONS AND AGE GROUPS
The art market was concentrated around Western buyers for years, but in recent years Asian collectors stepped up, which resulted in significant restructuring of the market and the rescheduling of events. Major auction houses decided to delay their London sales for 2017 until after the Chinese New Year. Branches of the biggest art galleries are opening in Asia, including a branch of David Zwirner. To illustrate, it is worth noting that Phillips sold $50 million worth of contemporary art, design and watches in November in Hong Kong.
Along with market increases in the East, galleries, auction houses and museums placed a focus on artists from young and older age groups in 2016. Works by creative artists like Harold Ancart, born in 1980, and Korakrit Arunanondchai, born in 1986, sold within a few hours at Art Basel Miami Beach. The older generation is also advancing strongly, with 101-year-old artist Carmen Herrera selling one of her canvases for $970,000 and showing a solo exhibition at Whitney Museum, while 87-year-old Yayoi Kusama sold her works for an astonishing $53.8 million in 2016, and will have solo shows at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington in 2017.
2017 IN ART: SUMMARISING TRENDSIt seems that the art market in 2017 will continue the practise of defining and developing novel strategies to attract buyers and expand its reliability regarding predictions and investment risks. Developing a buyer base and moving business to the online world to a greater extent will follow on the already positive trends in this sphere. Renewed interest in Russian art seems to come not just from historical justifications, but also from the political circumstances of the moment, and that will surely create demand and lead to price increases for these works. Finally, all forecasts predict that the market for contemporary art will continue to increase, while the interest in young and older generation artists will remain steady, thanks to positive trends in these sectors, which proved to be reliable assets in a globalised art market world.