Photographer: Scott McIntyre/Bloomberg
Art & Design

Art Market Trends Poised to Captivate Investors Next Year

  • Millennials are a hit, but so are old-timers and Old Masters
  • Asian buyers keep gaining clout, and auctioneers take notice

The art market went on a roller-coaster ride in 2016.

The year saw highs including auction records for artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Claude Monet -- and lows such as a drop in auction sales in London and New York. There were many tense moments in between, too.

Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s were entangled in a money-laundering investigation surrounding Malaysian businessman Jho Low. Neither auction house was accused of any wrongdoing and Low’s family has been fighting the claims. A Pablo Picasso sculpture ignited a bitter fight between powerful members of the royal family of Qatar and U.S. billionaire Leon Black. There was also unprecedented staff turnover in the auction world, which culminated this month when Christie’s tapped an ex-Sotheby’s executive as its new chief executive officer. 

What does it all mean for 2017? Here are seven trends to watch next year.

Russian Art

Russian avant-garde will be in focus next year because of the upcoming centenary of the October Revolution of 1917. The Museum of Modern Art in New York explores the artistic innovation between 1912 and 1935, which produced radical works such as Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square,” in a special exhibition on view through March 12. Another major show is planned for Tate Modern in London in November. Prices are already starting to climb. Sotheby’s set auction records for Alexander Rodchenko and Ilya Chashnik in London last month.

Fans of the movement include Claude Ruiz Picasso, a son of Pablo. “Russian avant-garde is something very close to my heart,” Ruiz Picasso said in an interview in Miami, where he designed a standout booth at Galerie Gmurzynska at Art Basel. “Its revolutionary spirit, its total, complete leap into the future.”

An installation view of the "Russian Avant-Garde" show by Galerie Gmurzynska

Source: Galerie Gmurzynska

Asia

Asian collectors have become such a force in the market that Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips are delaying their London sales next year -- traditionally in early February -- until later in the month and into March, after the Chinese New Year. David Zwirner, one of the biggest art galleries, is planning to open a Hong Kong branch. Sotheby’s, whose largest shareholder is Chinese company Taikang Life Insurance, recently named its first Asian director. In Hong Kong last month, Phillips sold $50 million of contemporary art, design and watches while Christie’s made multiple sales from its special exhibition of Western art.

"Pastorale" by Willem de Kooning was part of Christie’s special exhibition in Hong Kong

Source: Christie’s Auction House

Online Sales

The online art market is growing at an annual rate of 24 percent and expected to reach $9.58 billion by 2020, according to a report by insurer Hiscox Ltd. At Sotheby’s, Internet buyers spent $155 million in 2016, up 20 percent from a year earlier, and about half of all online bidders were new to the auction house. Christie’s doubled the number of its online-only sales this year. The young, global, tech-savvy audience of startup Artsy participated in 41 auctions of its partners such as Phillips and Sotheby’s -- and the company expects to quadruple such collaborations in 2017. A Basquiat painting sold via Instagram for $24 million in November.

Sugar Ray Robinson by Basquiat

Source: Christie’s Auction House

The Very Young

Moments after the opening of Art Basel Miami Beach last month, collectors rushed to a distant corner of the fair where first-time exhibitor Clearing gallery offered works by two hot millennials: Harold Ancart (born in 1980) and Korakrit Arunanondchai (born in 1986).

The booth sold out within a couple of hours, with all works going to public and private institutions, according to Olivier Babin, the founder of the gallery. Ancart’s bonfire paintings sold for $30,000 and $45,000. Two weeks earlier, an Ancart triptych fetched $751,000 at auction, six times the high estimate.

“It just goes to show you that there is always going to be this foaming, heaving activity around some young art,” said Todd Levin, director of Levin Art Group in New York. But beware: not all works by young artists hold their value over time.

For read more about upcoming young artists, see this story

“Tree of Life United Nations" by Arunanondchai, sold for $75,000

Source: Clearing

The Very Old

The Cuban-born artist Carmen Herrera was 101 years old when her geometric abstract paintings and sculptures got their big recognition with a solo Whitney museum exhibition in New York earlier this year. It was quickly followed by an auction record of $970,000 for a 1965 canvas last month. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, 87, was a hit with collectors this year. Auction sales tallied a record $53.8 million for her in 2016, according to Artprice.com, and demand is expected to remain strong ahead of her exhibition in February at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington.

Artist Carmen Herrera

Source: Matthew Carasella via Whitney Museum of Art

Old Masters

The Old Masters sector was shaken by high-profile forgery claims that led Sotheby’s to reimburse the buyer of a $10 million painting now believed to be a fake, and launch a special department for scientific research. Still, Peter Paul Rubens’s “Lot and his Daughters" fetched $58 million at Christie’s in July. Next June, a newly discovered Leonardo da Vinci drawing valued at 15 million euros ($15.7 million) will offered for sale at French auction house Tajan.

A newly discovered drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Source: Tajan Auction House

Sotheby’s Stock

After falling as low as $19.13 in February on a gloomy outlook, Sotheby’s stock is ending the year with a rally. Often a barometer for the art market, Sotheby’s jumped almost 8 percent to $41.35 on Dec. 16 after Cowen analyst Oliver Chen upgraded the stock to outperform and raised the price target to $45 from $38. “With new management and the company’s turnaround underway, we believe BID’s transformation is in the early innings and likely to gain momentum in 2017,” Chen said in his report.

Sotheby’s stock growth

Source: Bloomberg
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