Something strange is happening all over the art world and I’m trying to figure it out. Maybe I hadn’t been noticing all that much, but I started thinking about it a couple of weeks ago when I attended an American Art auction at Sotheby’s and a small Norman Rockwell nostalgic painting sold for $2.2 million, of course a record and a wake up call to start looking at a few other sales that weren’t Contemporary Art.
What I’ve discovered is a consistently rising market for many kinds of art that normally don’t attract the mass market, causing me to think that money is being invested in work that is not exactly affordable for the ordinary Joe, but could be a bargain for serious collectors if they are comparing it to what is going on at the evening sales at the auction houses.
Just this morning I was looking at the results of the Antiquities sale at Sotheby’s:
Marble torso of a young satyr estimated at $50,000-80,000, sold for $329,000
Egyptian bronze figure of Harpocrates-Somtous estimated at $30,000-50,000, sold for $137,000
Hellenistic marble head of a woman estimated at $20,000-30,000, sold for $112,500
Two small Egyptian polychrome figures estimated at $7,000-10,000, sold for $53,125
At the Sotheby’s Old Master sale:
Antwerp Mannerist School painting estimated at $100,000-150,000, sold for $257,000
Gillis Mostraert painting estimated at $4,000-6,000, sold for $43,750
Circle of Jan Wellens de Cock painting estimated at $30,000-50,000, sold for $106,250
Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s small painting estimated at $700,000-900,000, sold for $2,285,000
These were not aberrational sales, but a reflection of the overall sales, and I am finding this repeated in the sales of other categories of art, i.e., paintings, sculpture, objects of art. I’ll be checking out the other areas now that I’m alerted to the rush towards obtaining physical proof of where someone’s money has gone rather than investing in the more ephemeral ink on paper representing stocks, bonds, gold and whatever.
The other day when someone told me her son was so interested in art I remarked that so was everyone else. It probably wasn’t until the 1970s and Scull auction sales that the general public was alerted to the fact that paintings could fetch a good deal of money. Then the world seemed to sit up to look a little more closely at the art market. Interest gradually rose, but the wild prices of the late 1980s and the 1990s really caught their attention. And as I told the lady, everyone today is interested in art. But it is because of a growing appreciation of it or the prices it brings?