After months of inertia in the art world it is wonderful to see galleries back to their best and art fairs returning after almost 18 months of a life online. It was great to walk around Mayfair recently and to see galleries reasserting themselves amongst the centre of the art world after months and months of auction house dominance and the thin gruel of online-only exhibiting.
Exhibitions of any serious calibre have been exclusively held by the big names – Zwirner with Bridget Riley, Gagosian with Rachel Whiteread etc. yet now the smaller names are exhibiting fine shows of real interest: Turi Simeti at Mayor Gallery or Yinka Shonibare at Stephen Friedman. The chance of passing trade and genuine buying interest was evident along the streets of Mayfair and St James’s; even during Art Basel.
The re-emergence of art fairs are the biggest change to the art market environment since the start of Covid. The ability to view high class pieces in the same place, with tens or even hundreds of galleries from which to choose, make art fairs such a hugely important aspect of the market. Their absence has been vastly problematic to those small, first floor dealers that rely on them as a shop front. The presence of Art Basel this week has been an important step to normality. Its calibre as a centrepiece of the contemporary market was immediately evident with outstanding works by Urs Fischer, Dan Flavin and countless other A-list 20th and 21st Centuries artists. Prices were reassuringly punchy but the mega-galleries (i.e. those that can perform at the Art Basel level) were never in desperate need of cash having had a fairly buoyant time during the depths of covid with staff furloughed and (some) rent holidays. I am delighted to hear that Frieze, here in London from 13th-17th October, will be very well attended. Indeed, three US clients have asked me for tickets one month early! We look well set for a real return to a format that went from omnipresent to non-existent just last Spring.
In light of a return to normality I have been interested to see what the status of the NFT-world promises in the coming months. I saw that the 1st October auctions at Chrstiie’s New York will have two sepreate auctions – one for physical work and one for NFTs. We shall see the results and read countless opinion pieces in the Art press following the sale but in my view the NFT assault is a hyped market to be monitored, but avoided, in the short term.
What does the next few months hold? I feel that the US opening up to Europe will mean an ever largening pool of buyers in a market already hot enough following the Fed, the ECB and the UK treasury (amongst others) turning on the money taps during Covid. Lots of tangible asset increases means art of all types: bad and good, command a premium. Never has an advisor been more valuable than now. We are in the wild west and the market is just going to get wilder. Please, use an advisor for high value works of art and I do hope to see you soon. Whether at an art fair or in the US for the auctions in the Autumn/Fall.