News media reports that 2016 may be a challenging year for the art world. Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the two largest international auction houses, recently released their 2015 results. Each auction house reported a decrease in year-over-year sales with 2015 the first year since 2010 in which Christie’s and Sotheby’s were unable to yield an increase.
London-based Christie’s reported auctions and private sales of about $6.8 billion in 2015 (down by about five percent from 2014) while New York-based Sotheby’s reported nearly equivalent sales of about $6.6 billion in 2015 (down by about one percent from 2014).
While the above figures do not signal a “burst bubble”, they do hint that this year is going to be a challenging one for the art world and reflect the volatility going on throughout the world.
In particular, cautious owners have become increasingly hesitant to sell their high-value works in a downturn. This is evidenced by Christie’s and Sotheby’s upcoming London auctions this month of Impressionist, Modern, and Contemporary Art, which are smaller with lower estimates than same such events at this time last year.
As investment-conscious buyers become anxious about spending significant amounts of money on art works by less established artists, the so-called new category of “20th-century art” now appears to dominate the art market. Christie’s and Sotheby’s both used this new category to promote their respective February auctions.
It appears that “rediscovered” instead of “discovered” talent in the art world is going to be “a recurring theme of a bearish 2016.” Only time will tell.