2018 promises to be another exciting year for the market provided that enough works of art of real quality (notwithstanding the Rockefeller bonanza) can be found by the major auction houses and galleries. 2017 saw some outstanding prices including the extraordinary result for Leonardo’s work, Salvator Mundi, which made 450m USD at auction in New York last Fall. The buyer, Prince Bader, is to hang the work at the Louvre Abu Dhabi and though there were questions over the price (and the level of retouching) I think the public will be relieved it is available for all to see, for the time being at least.
Arguably amongst the trade that the 1889 painting by Van Gogh entitled Laboureur dans un champ, at Christie’s that same week, was a significantly better acquisition (albeit at 81m USD). Indeed, the sale of that Perry Bass collection was the auction highlight of my year. A world-class Gustav Klimt auctioned at Sotheby’s London, Bauerngarten (Blumengarten), sold for nearly 50m GBP and saw the best result of the London auctions. The contemporary market saw several stunning prices with Jean-Michel Basquiat proving popular as ever. Untitled of 1982 fetched 110m USD, which places him in Andy Warhol territory, amongst others. Indeed, there was only one superstar lot that I recall not selling – the Francis Bacon, Study of Red Pope 1962, at the rostrum at Christie’s London in October which was offered at a staggering (unofficial) estimate of 60m-80m GBP. Remaining unsold will wipe 20% from its value: such can be the danger of not taking a guarantee. We saw the Modern British market continue to gather pace with outstanding results for Sir Peter Blake (surely one to look out for in 2018), the late, great, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Sir Stanley Spencer and many others.
As to the gallery world I thoroughly enjoyed TEFAF and Art Basel and was happy to be in London for the Frieze Masters show in Regent’s Park too. TEFAF is inching towards the more contemporary galleries but that is no bad thing when the Old Masters section feels less and less salient these days. Art Basel was a treat and amidst the Picassos of Acquavella and the Condos of Simon Lee there were some genuinely interesting contemporary artists upstairs amongst the fresher galleries. The Waddington Custot stand at Frieze Masters was great – a mock up of his studio with some forty pictures/shallow reliefs by the artist, most of which were for sale.
I can see a number of mixed sales this year – Formula 1 cars and Leonardo da Vinci paintings offered in the context of a Contemporary work of art sale was a masterstroke by the two houses: Sotheby’s and Christie’s in November in New York. Perhaps we shall see yachts and luxurious houses at the podium soon. I admit that I personally find these changes a little jarring but they might be the future.
Guarantees, Irrevocable bids and other financial products will continue to play a part in the market at the top level throughout 2018. This works well for auction houses keen to sell their risk and for those looking to either extend their bank balance or their collections.
The major highlight of 2018? This will be the sale of the Rockefeller works at Christie’s – about which more can be read in April before all is sold in the May sales in New York. In a sneak preview we know that the major works to be offered include Picasso’s Fillette a la corbeille fleurie of 1905, Matisse’s Odalisque couchee aux magnolias and the small matter of Juan Gris’ 1914 masterpiece: La table de musicien. It will prove a Ganz-like sale of outstanding prices and riveting battles in the Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza auction rooms.
In London this Spring there are two must-see shows including the Modigliani at Tate modern and Impressionists in London at Tate Britain. I thought the Chaim Soutine show at the Courthauld (until 12th January) simply riveting with the portraits of bellboys and servants revealing far more internal angst to the artist than would be allowed in any society portrait.
Do use an advisor in 2018 if you are considering making any major acquisitions and remember to collect slowly, carefully and (most importantly) enjoyably.
Image: Max Beckmann’s hellish scene above the phone bidding at Christie’s London last Summer