What’s in store for the market?
The growing numbers of the super-rich should keep the auction houses happy in 2013, but there are tougher times ahead for some
Comment, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 10 January 2013
In January 2012, the outlook for the art market was bleak, with turmoil in the eurozone and recession in many of the world’s major economies. Nothing changed—at the macro level, at least—throughout the year, so art dealers finished 2012 surprised that, for many, trade was not as bad as expected. If anything, the results at the top end of the market have never been better; more than $1bn was spent on art during last November’s sales in New York, with Christie’s racking up an all-time record for a contemporary art sale, at $412m. But will we witness similar success next year?
The 1% of the 1%
I believe the top end of the art market will continue to perform strongly, particularly in the contemporary, Impressionist and Modern art sectors. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the building of so many museums across the world will sustain buying. Although the reported “1,000 museums” in
may prove an exaggeration, many are under construction and are being stocked
with works of art. Elsewhere, the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim is back on track (or at
least the authorities in the emirate are anxious to tell us that this is the
case). The China Middle East, with its huge
resources, wants to establish itself as a cultural hub on a par with other,
more established centres. And billionaires’ “vanity museums”—sometimes an
unfair criticism—need to buy top works of art as well.
In this context, a recent book by Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, 2012 (Penguin Press), offers a fascinating analysis of the new global super-rich. She sees today’s incredible wealth as the result of two transformations: technological revolution and globalisation in the West, coupled with an Industrial Revolution-sized burst of growth in much of the rest of the world, leading to the convergence of two “gilded ages”.