Saturday, January 24, 2009

Art Market Reflection and Predictions for 2009

Predicting the future of the art market is always a gamble. After all, very few were prepared when the ills of the economy pulled the floor out from under the feet of gallerists and other art dealers. Not long ago people reported on how the art market was unstoppable-- now it is obvious to everyone that more than a few wrenches have been thrown into the art marketing machine. Art market insiders predict that average art prices, specifically at art auctions, will drop another 40% before the end of 2009.

However, it has been suggested that the issue really involves prices returning to where they should have been in the first place-- allegations of price inflation that occurred during the ‘boom’ have stirred debate. Thus, one could say that the crippled economy is forcing dealers-- and artists-- to face the realization of a market that had been artificially matured. The irony is clear-- the unwarranted increases in art prices may have an end result of decreasing the market value of those involved far beyond where they should have been in the first place.

The problem with examining the art market-- just like any market-- is that eventually fingers are pointed. Very few are willing to accept blame. Some blame the artists while others blame the art dealers. To be fair I would say that both sides played a role-- especially with regards to works by living artists. After all, living artists normally communicate about pricing with their dealers. The problems fall on the shoulders of the living-- you can’t very well point fingers at Andy Warhol and other deceased artists if the prices for their art were higher than they should have been in recent years.

At the same time, what can one art dealer do if another art dealer-- who is not directly associated with the artist-- increases prices? In that scenario the only way to sustain the market for the artists work is to match the price. Fluctuations in prices from one dealer to the next is not a good thing. Thus, I think part of the inflation in pricing occurred due to the rat race of staying on the ball, so to speak. In that case, more blame falls on the auction houses than traditional art dealers since they spurred some of those increases.

That said, I suppose you can question art dealers who fed a youthful market by pushing recent graduates into the five or six digit range before they had even cleared out their art school studio space. In the years leading up to the crash it was common to read about gallerists dropping mid-career artists in favor of ’hot’ emerging artists. I recall people describing it as an assembly line of raw-inexperienced talent--- profitable and ’fresh’.

The thing to keep in mind is that all the finger pointing in the world does not matter now. The market is what it is. All that is left is to hang in or cash out. Those destined for obscurity will surely find it now while those destined for something more will eventually rise once the market skies are clear. Old faces may become new faces in the art market-- New faces may never be seen again. Doors will open while others close-- careers will bloom while others fold.

My predictions for 2009:

*Art dealers will not be so eager to take on 20-something artists simply to create hype.

*Mid-career artists will be dusted off and re-established within the art market.

*Gallerists will focus more on selling quality art instead of selling the experience of the exhibit itself. In other words, there will be no room for slacking. That goes for artists as well.

*Hype, as suggested above, will not have the same level of dominance.

* Defecating on a plate while eating jelly beans and waving a political sign will not make you famous.

*There will be an increase in war themed art as men and women return home from Iraq. They will no doubt open up about what exactly they experienced and what exactly they fought for.

*Art world politics will become even more political with aspects of government involvement-- at least in the US. (Which could be bad depending on how it is done.).

*Art dealers will explore alternative markets for selling art-- such as eCommerce and selling art online.

*Independent artists will continue to utilize the World Wide Web for exposure, marketing, and networking. In connection with this there will be an increase in co-op gallery ventures and other alternative spaces.

*The political, economic, and social climate will spur an increase in art movements based on those specific issues. Things are chaotic today-- drastic change will occur… the perfect conditions for art movements to take off and make a statement about our times.

*With the above in mind, the public will expect artists, gallerists, and curators to be more responsible for the message conveyed in the work they display in spaces that are open to the public.

*The public will expect works of art to be authentic. There will be an increase in interest concerning copyright, orphan works legislation, and other issues facing the art community.

Links of Interest:

Public Knowledge and the Orphan Works Bill -- Myartspace Blog

Brad Holland Responds to Public Knowledge -- Myartspace Blog

Appropriation Art and the Internet -- Myartspace Blog

Art Space Talk: Martin Trailer (Concerning Orphan Works Legislation) -- Myartspace Blog

Shepard Fairey: Obey Copyright -- Myartspace Blog

Controversial Art Damaged by Protestors -- Myartspace Blog

ArtTactic: Art Market May Take Years to Recover -- Myartspace Blog

The Arts Under Obama: A Brainstorming Session -- Winkleman Blog

Why the art world should care about the old folks -- Guardian

Art Auction Prices May Fall 40% in 2009, Larasati Chief Says -- Bloomberg

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange


Anonymous said...

The market in art has a trickle effect. If the upper levels crash it trickles down to every other level of the market for art. You have some interesting predictions. I'm not sure if you will be right about the war themed art. People are tired of thinking of war.

Anonymous said...

The copyright stuff will become a powderkeg in 2009. People are going to step back and notice that a lot of artists are broke because of other artists and companies exploiting their art. Only 27% of the population cares about artists but I think that will change under Obama.