A Few Numbers

A Few Numbers
Traditionally, August is a calm month in the auction and art market. In anticipation to new events, as September is already quite close, below we have published last season’s results.


After a period of decline in 2015, indices in all categories of fine arts indicate the art market is gradually returning to previous, pre-crisis positions. The main push for growth in the art market is provided by sales in the postwar (works of art created from 1945 to the second half of the 20th century) and contemporary art segments(works by artists born after 1945, whose peak of creative activity took place at the end of the 20th/beginning of the XXI century.) By the end of the 2016/2017 auction season these directions showed steady growth (see the schedule ARTIMX-WS).

The decline of 2015 was mainly due to geopolitical and economic instability, which affected  the mood of both sellers and buyers. This decline was most prevalent in the art market after the global economic crisis of 2008 and the subsequent crisis of the art market in 2009. However, experts at ArtTakctic (index of consumer confidence) predict an end to this stagnation period. According to this index, 45% of market experts believe that this positive trend, which began in late 2016 and continued in the first half of 2017, will also continue in the second half of 2017. The latest report of the French portal Artprice.com also shows a 5.3% growth of the global art market in the first half of 2017 (the total turnover of international art auctions was $ 6.9 billion) compared to the same period last year. There is evidence that the number of unsold lots has decreased by 2%. As for private sales, according to gallery owners, this market is stable (we note, however, that there is no officially recognized source of information about private sales on the art market). The foregoing points to a profitable situation for investment in the leading segment of contemporary art, which is the most attractive direction for risky investments.

The growth of the ARTIMX-WS index was influenced by new auction records brought by the spring (May 2017) auction of modern and post-war art. Sales of the leaders of the auction market, auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's, came close to 100% at the latest auction of modern and post-war art: Sotheby's sold 98% of lots with a profit of $ 319 million (32% more compared to the same period last year), and Christie's reached a figure of 96%. The full reports of the two major auction houses on sales volumes in the first half of 2017 also show growth: Christie's is leading the world market and showing a growth of 14% more than in the first half of 2016. At Sotheby's, whose shares in late July reached a peak of $ 57.7 per share (45% growth since the beginning of the year), total turnover fell by 2% compared to the same period in 2016, but private sales increased by 34% and amounted to $ 333.8 million.

The main "investment sensation" during this period of time was the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, which sold for $ 110.5 million. It broke 3 price records: the most expensive product of an American artist in history, the most expensive work created by a black artist and the first painting to sell for more than $ 100 million since 1980. The nameless picture is the 6th most expensive painting ever sold at an auction. Information about the first auction sale of this picture appears 2 years after its birth in 1984, when the canvas was bought for $ 19,800 ($ 47,372 taking inflation into account). In 2017, after an 11-minute battle between a Japanese collector and an American gallery owner, the work almost doubled its estimated worth and eventually went home with the prior.

Spurred by record-breaking auction prices, visitors of the 48th Fair of Modern and Post-Art Art Basel made it the most successful in history- buyers were guided by a desire for an equally successful investment. Information on sales at the fair is not available for public use and cannot affect the schedule (the behavior of the curve is affected only by data on auction sales); however, the outcome of the fair also confirms the aforementioned trend. So, during the process of private sales in the Art Basel, the works of Basquiat presented in galleries enjoyed the increased interest of buyers, because despite the auction record, galleries did not rush to raise prices for the work of the American artist. The sales analysis at the Art Basel fair also showed that, unlike open auction sales market, collectors who mainly closed gallery deals were less interested in risky modern art in terms of investment and instead turned to generally recognized postwar art as a more secure form of investment compared to previous years. Note, however, that the contemporary art market, among all categories of fine art, brings the most significant income (from 5 to 9% annually) and is the most attractive for risky investments. The riskiness of this segment, which distinguishes contemporary art from other categories, is simply related to its novelty and unstable historical value of this or that artist. For a short period of time, a collector can not only raise the little-known creator to the rank of a popular art star, but also drop the prices of works to a minimum.

The categories of impressionism/modernism and old masters are also now in the sphere of reliable and profitable purchases. The segment of old masters, the category considered the most reliable from an investor’s point of view, is in the red since 2016 in relation to the starting investment point of $ 100 (ARTIMX-WS). The latter is due to the outflow of buyers. Comparatively low prices for the work of authors who have gained world fame during the period of market stagnation look even more attractive from the point of view of saving money. Mindful of the fact that 60 years ago the market of old masters was the most profitable from the point of view of investment, and the quality of the work of this segment may well compete with multi-million works of contemporary artists, in the long term, one can expect restoration and even market growth. As can be seen from the graph, it is subject to fluctuations.

The values of the Impressionist and Modernist sales segment is gradually normalized due to the steady demand for high-quality works of artists of the first row. An example of this is the record sale of "Pictures with White Lines" by Vasily Kandinsky: it went for $ 41.8 million at Sotheby’s London’s Impressionists and Modernists auction on June 21, 2017.


After its peak in September 2015, the segment of vintage cars continues to fall. According to many experts, the reason lies primarily in the overheated market and in the decline in consumer activity. However, in the market, which has been growing rapidly since 2009, there are no signs of panic. Cars in the lower price category, despite a 14% fall in relation to the historical maximum of the market volume, have stable positions. In a period of such a decline in consumer activity and price stabilization, the segment of vintage cars is becoming attractive to investors.


Collectible stamps, like collection wines, can serve as an excellent "buffer zone" in the period of macroeconomic instability, unlike other arts and other alternative investments. The graph below clearly shows the decline in stock indices in connection with the decision of Britain to withdraw from the EU.


Wine sales from the list of 100 best wines of the London International Wine Exchange (that is, hundreds of wines, according to the exchange statistics that are most in demand in the secondary market) show a good growth dynamics at 1.04% per month since 2016. The LIV-EX Fine Wine 100 index represents a change in prices for the 100 wines listed and is calculated monthly.

The average prices are taken as a basis and are compared to the prices of the released batch (the growth of the deficit due to the aging of production is taken into account).

A detailed list of auctions and catalogs for all categories of collectibles can be found on the website of our agency and our specialists are comprehensively prepared to go into detail about the most investment-attractive categories.


21 August 2017
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