By Kelly Crow. Wall Street Journal. 4 Jan. 2010.
The recession battered the art market for much of 2009, as prices for some of the world’s top artists fell by a third and auction houses struggled to win over wary collectors.
The Journal Report
See the complete Year-End Review: Markets & Finance 2009
Some buyers who fled when the art market crashed in late 2008 have stepped back in recently, and a few paid record prices for masterworks. But the marketplace, from Miami to Moscow to Mumbai, remains pockmarked with shuttered galleries, smaller auctions and scaled-down art fairs. In the U.S., many museums have postponed pricey exhibits.
Sotheby’s said it auctioned off about $2.3 billion of fine and decorative art last year, down 53% from 2008. The 2009 total included $441 million in contemporary art, down 68% from 2008; $471 million in Impressionist and modern art, down 57%; and $190 million in jewelry, down 13%.
Rival Christie’s International PLC said it auctioned at least $2.5 billion of art, down 45.6% from $4.6 billion in 2008. Closely held Christie’s said it would release complete sales figures later this month.
In a year of uncertain art values, some collectors sought stability in the Old Masters. Raphael’s black-chalk drawing of a serene figure, “Head of a Muse,” sold at Christie’s in London last month for $48 million—the highest price paid for a work of art at auction all year. In the same sale, Christie’s sold an earthen-hued oil by Rembrandt, “Portrait of a Man With Arms Akimbo,” for $33.2 million…..
…Although Americans sat on the sidelines for much of 2009, in recent weeks some contemporary collectors in the U.S. have rejoined the competition for top examples of artists’ work.
American collectors and dealers won 82% of the offerings at Christie’s Nov. 10 contemporary sale in New York, including pieces by Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell and Donald Judd.
The recession has begun influencing the roster of sought-after artists. While art advisers expect prices to keep climbing for curatorial favorites like Louise Bourgeois and Cindy Sherman, whose prices didn’t soar on speculation during the boom, they caution that the market may continue to test price levels for boom-era favorites like Takashi Murakami.