Monday, February 8, 2010

How Did It Go?

The question colleagues often ask each other after Old Master or American Art or a Contemporary Week in the Art World. There are times of year that a group of events conspire to occur at the same time. Often led by the scheduling of major auction sales within a specialized field.

In the last few weeks we had Old Master Paintings and Drawings at Christies, Sotheby’s and other auction houses. The Winter Antiques Show and Master Drawings New York which included 22 galleries in New York. Well… how did it go?

Many journalists and bloggers try to answer this question with statistics which never give the whole story. They bring to mind the proverbial definition of falsehoods 'lies, damned lies, and statistics." I would rather look at the quoted statistics as giving only a limited view of a situation. At cocktail parties people outside the art world will sometimes say, "Well, you must be happy the art market is up again". They are referring to a record price they may have read about in the morning paper for a contemporary auction. Then I try to explain that there are many different art markets. What happens in Contemporary or Americana or Oriental has little to do with what happens in the Old Master field. In fact, right after 9/11 when we all felt that the art market was doomed for months to come, the American field took off. My only explanation is that this was a time for patriotism which could be expressed by the support of American art.

Well, how did Old Master week go… in a word, better. The Old Master auctions showed some incredible prices for rare, high quality works, that had not been on the market for a long time and fewer ‘buy-ins" (works unsold). At the Winter Antiques Show dealers were not unhappy and all agreed that the mood was much better and that it was better than last year… but remember where we were economically last year?

Regarding Master Drawings New York it was my perception that most participants, if not all, had sales but it was not gang busters. We were all thrilled, however, that the interest was definitely back. None of us expect to sell something to everyone who comes in but we want people to look and talk about the art. With guidance the art will sell itself.

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