Strong Art Market Reflects Hunt For Safety; China A Key Driver - Ledbury Research

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 5 May 2011

Strong Art Market Reflects Hunt For Safety; China A Key Driver - Ledbury Research

The market for fine art, which contracted in value terms by 41 per cent from its 2007 peak in 2009, bounced back by 52 per cent last year to reach €43 billion (around $64.2 billion), with countries such as China providing a considerable volume of purchases and deal turnover, new research shows.

Christie’s, the auction house, logged record results of $5.4 billion last year, representing a 53 per cent jump on the firm’s results a year before; Sotheby’s, its major rival, almost doubled its 2009 sales, reaching $4.3 billion, according to Ledbury Research, the UK-based business.

The art market, while clearly not immune to broader economic gyrations, has seen a boom over the past decade - despite the turnover drop in the credit crunch episode - in part fuelled by a rising middle class in Asia, Russia and other increasingly affluent emerging market countries. On the other hand, fears about rising inflation in certain countries, such as the UK and US, has, industry figures say, encouraged buyers of art as a “real asset”, along with gold and property.

Trends in the type of art in demand also reflect shifting economic conditions, the Ledbury Research report said.

“A clear indicator of sentiment among art collectors over the past few years has been the tendency towards either contemporary or more traditional artists (for example, old masters). For a period starting mid-way through the last decade, works by the former achieved astronomical prices, and peaked in 2008,” the report said.

“With the recession, however, investors began to question the value of contemporary works and reverted to traditional genres such as old masters, whose longevity had already been proven in the marketplace,” the report said.

Chinese artists are drawing more interest; four of the top 10 auction revenues in 2010 were generated by Chinese art works, the report said. Since 2002, the average stock price obtained for individual artworks has risen to $296,000 from $68,000.

And Chinese collectors are increasingly powerful buyers. In February this year, the report noted that Sotheby’s held its first ever show specifically aimed at the Asian market. Some 37 lots raised more than $36 million, it said.

The trend towards more purchase of home-grown Chinese art may translate into more domestic luxury goods providers, the report added.


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