Lucian Freud at the Pompidou Could Boost Prices
A 2002 Freud retrospective at the Tate kicked off a nearly immediate 185 percent increase in the index for this artist, and by 2004, he became a staple at prestigious auctions, and his sales revenue surged 450 percent. In 2005, the Freud price index, according to Artprice, gained 41 percent, and demand for his work was substantial. He debuted on the list of top 10 artists at auction, with an aggregate total of $33.7 million for the year.
Of course, the 2005 results paled in comparison to 2008, in which Roman Abramovich made Freud the most expensive living artist (seizing the title from Jeff Koons) with the $30 million purchase of "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" – a familiar enough topic for anyone who's looked for some help from the human resources department. Yet, the upside was short-lived.
No piece by Freud crossed the $1 million mark in 2009, and with only $405,000 in auction results, he ranked 1,327th at auction, just above ... someone who is likely irrelevant in the global art community. The auction houses couldn't try to sell the good stuff, though, because nobody would put it on the block. Only prints and drawings were offered.
Did the Sotheby's auction last month signal a turn? Both "Self-Portrait with a Black Eye" and "Guy and Speck" crossed not just he million dollar but the million pound threshold, though the hype around Freud failed to materialize. Maybe Freud will lag the market in recovering, but that's probably because the art market is showing such a robust return.