Contemporary Art: Fighting fit
As the year comes to an end, the overall scenario of the art auction market is becoming apparent. Both the market watchdogs ArtTactic and Artprice have also come up with their respective market analysis. And yet again, a very basic aspect of the art auction market has come to light. Contemporary art has still a long way to go to catch up with Modern Art at the auction floors. Yet, 2011 has by far been the best year for Contemporary Art, since the global financial meltdown of 2008/09.
"Historical logic suggests that only masterpieces by the Old Masters, Modern artists and Impressionists that have withstood the test of time can be considered as safe investments. In effect, the bulk of today's most sought-after works and hence the most expensive are by artists born between 1850 and 1950... Hence in 2011, out of the 100 best results, only 8 were generated by Contemporary artworks compared with 15 in 2008 (signed by Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami and the other Contemporary stars)."
January to June 2011 has actually been the best semester for the art market ever in the last four years with sales topping the total collection in the whole of 2009. Contemporary Art has also kept pace with this. Artprice opines, "In the first six months of 2011, the global art market all periods combined flew higher than the peaks achieved in 2007/2008 with a total of 4.3 billion euros. The performance in this exceptional semester represents growth of 34% versus the same period in 2010 and was better than the full-year total in 2009!"
The market for contemporary art
In 2011, on an average, Contemporary art posted an unsold rate of 35 per cent. Though this is not something to applaud, when compared with an unsold rate of 44.7 per cent two years back, it seems a lot of ground has been recovered.
Among contemporaries, the two top slots were achieved by Jeff Koons. His Balloon Flowers (Blue) sold for € 10,804,500 and his Pink Panther for € 10,441,500. Interestingly, the five of the top 10 slots were held by Chinese artists, with names like Yifei Chen, Xiaogang Zhang, Bing Wu and Shunkui Jin featuring in the list. This further establishes the fact that the focus of the art market has shifted from the West to the East. The price matrix has also changed. Artprice writes, "In just one decade, the number of million-plus results has been multiplied by ten! Between 2000 and 2004, there were on average six million-plus results for Contemporary art; this figure rose to 47 in the period 2005- 2010 (excluding the exceptional 2007-2008 that saw 120 million-plus results). This year, there have been 125 million-plus results for Contemporary artworks."
Indian contemporary art
The contemporary Indian art market is also showing a state of recovery. ArtTactic's confidence indicator, a dependable measure to gauge market sentiment has shown a 31 per cent increase since October 2010, when measured uptil June this year.
According to ArtTactic's Indian art market survey, "The increased confidence in the contemporary Indian art market was flagged up in October 2010, where the Expectation Indicator (market confidence for the next 6 months) coming in at 50, notably above the current indicator of 27. The expectation for the next 6 months is also positive, with the Expectation Indicator standing at 59, or 16% higher than the current reading, implying that the environment for Contemporary Indian art continues to improve."
Among the long term performers are Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Rashid Rana, Atul Dodiya, all of them showing positive trend between October 2010 and May 2011.
The shift in focus
That the socus of the art market has shifted from the haloed portals of New York to the more prosaic Sanghai is also apparent in the list of the top ten auction houses around the world. Despite their presence in the West as well as in Hong Kong, their major rival Poly, without any presence in America (they are planning to open a branch) has come within breathing distance of Christie's and Sotheby's. While Christie's auction turnover has been € 234,454,390, followed by Sotheby's at € 218,873,694, Poly International has come up close in the third place with a total auction turnover of € 88,222,305, ahead of Philips de Pury. The others in the list include China Guardian, Beijing Hanhai, Beijing Council International Auctions, Shanghai Tianheng, Ravenel and Beijing CNTC.
In terms of value generated at auction floors, China is second best, only next to New York. Art pundits are already raising their eyebrows, worrying if this is the end of the era for New York. In fact, in 2010 itself, the more than half a century old leadership of the New York auction floors for Fine Art had been toppled by Shanghai.
But still, despite the strong presence of the Asian market, New York remains the world's most high-end venue for Contemporary Art.