Art addictions are wearing off, thanks in large part to the brutal discipline enforced by the global financial crisis. Only 79 sales generated bids north of $1 million in the first quarter of the year – only half the number that crossed this threshold for the same period in 2008.
The proportion of lots with estimates below $5,000 – pretty much the lowest point at which art can be considered "investment grade" – was 77 percent, 10 percent higher than in 2008. Pieces offered for more than $50,000 represent only 3 percent of the lots coming on the block so far this year. It was 6 percent for the first quarter of 2008.
ArtPrice puts the contraction of the global fine art market at 10 percent since the beginning of 2009. It shrunk 30 percent in 2008, after showing fantastic growth of 18 percent in 2007 – when the market peaked.
At the beginning of 2008, artists, dealers and auction houses braced themselves for a difficult year, and if nothing else, they were rewarded for their preparation with the ultimate delivery of bad news. Conditions are continuing this year. For those with the resources (and the storage space), now could be a great time to pick up some old masters or maybe make a speculative play in the emerging market space.
Just be prepared to buy and hold ... for a while.
[Photo of "El Picador" by Julio Aguilera]