Art Market Preview: Looking forward to 2022

With most auction houses showing bumper years for 2021 and both Sotheby’s and Christie’s each passing 7 Billion USD in sales over the last 12 months it is easy to suppose that the market has little left in its tank. Yet I am positive that the coming year will show a greater demand for works of art than ever before. There are a number of reasons for my prognosis:

1) The US Stock market is buoyant, and despite higher interest rates being mooted there is simply a vast amount of money to be spent. Higher inflation often means a flight to safety and art is perceived as a tangible asset that can really be enjoyed.

2) The US is the key to the art market – as it has been since I started my career. Despite the vast forays into the market from China the real players are in the US and if galleries and auction houses can keep flushing out collections (i.e. Cox and Macklowe in 2021) then the future is bright.

3) The last five years has seen a monumental shift in generational wealth across the western world. It is more than likely that this will feed the art market in some way shape or form as a long play over the next 10 years. I feel this is a little discussed topic, but it is having a profound effect on the market – particularly in the Contemporary field.

4) Cryptocurrency wealth, and with it the NFT-craze, has formed the backbone of the bleeding-edge contemporary market in 2021 with the likes of Pak and Beeple selling for tens of millions. I fear that many artist’s careers will shine bright and short but it is a question of making hay while the sun shines and with Goldman Sachs predicting Bitcoin at 100,000 USD this could mean bumper profits.

5) Asia – the Chinese art market has not been dealt a blow by China’s policy of stemming individual wealth. I am concerned about the future of Hong Kong’s buyers but for the time being, and probably for the next 12 months, the financial weather seems set fair.

As to the various styles and media that will be on the shopping lists of new collectors I imagine that the world of NFTs will have a place, but I would be very, very cautious in playing this highly volatile game. I’ve yet to hear a single art critic who is keen on digital art – much of which is hackneyed and vapid – but the financial side is proving compelling with individual tokens being ‘cleverly’ flipped (bought and sold), seeing lottery-sized gains in some cases. 

‘Particle’, a company put together by Christie’s former rainmaker Loic Gouzer allows a buyer to acquire a tiny portion of a work of art (in the first case a Banksy ‘Love is in the Air’) in the form of an NFT. It is a little like holding a stock in a physical painting. This is a clever initiative and might work well – the Particle sale of the Banksy will take place between 10th and 14th January. https://www.particlecollection.com

Yet in the field that I cover the market for Impressionist, Modern and Post-War art looks as rosy as ever. Every sector thrived in 2021 and the likelihood of further gains look justified. There is no greater section of the art market that relies on a physical viewing than the Impressionist wonders of Sisley, Monet and Pissarro. The pandemic (and associated headwinds) has not halted their collectors and once we can all enjoy those paintings at art fairs (which look set to redeem their horrid Pandemic-induced costs in 2022) I think the market will really fly. Indeed, judging by the success of the New York auctions, and the Cox collection in particular, there is so much pent-up demand for rare objects of real quality.

The Modern sector (roughly 1910-1970) may be a slightly trickier affair given the current trend toward figurative art. Obviously the top Ab-ex artists will be fine – especially those female artists so crazily ignored by the market that are now being celebrated (Krasner, Elaine de Kooning et al) – yet the mid-market 1950s Paris school may start to struggle. The likes of Riopelle, Borduas, Poliakoff and de Stael will continue gains as their markets are settled and strong. However, the likes of Debre, Castaing, Reigl and other mid-market 50s artists might see an easing in their prices.

I am fascinated by the concerted, almost angry, reaction to NFTs by some collectors and there has been a push towards craft recently as interior fashion trends start to sway away from those minimal, interior aesthetics so beloved of designers in 2000s. Ceramics, textiles and uncommon tangible media may be worth exploring this year.

With the climate at the forefront of our minds I wonder if Land Art might make a comeback – Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy et al have been fairly unloved in recent years and I still think Long in particular is a top, top artist. International acclaim for art that sheds a light on the issues we face is, frankly, certain. I envisage the future of art (away from NFTs for a moment) looking outward rather than the navel-gazing that we have seen all too much in recent decades. Be it Race, Religion or Climate there are some vital topics to be covered and imbued with importance by tastemakers and critics. Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, Chris Offili, Stanley Whitney and Jennifer Packer are all artists I would follow this year.

Whatever happens it will be a fascinating 2022 and major museums and galleries have a superb calendar for us this year. A few of my highlights as follows:

A Tate Cezanne retrospective, we can’t wait:

Cezanne at the Tate

Any National Gallery exhibition covering Raphael will be worth the queue:

Raphael at the National

Opening soon, the talk of London’s art world, this Bacon show will be superb:

Francis Bacon at the RA

Have a great 2022 and remember, if you are considering spending significant sums please do use an advisor so you can avoid those common art-buying/selling pitfalls.