The three major auction houses were upbeat at the Frieze Art Fair and seem to think an art market recovery is in the works. ArtInfo reports that Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury came out of the event feeling positive about the market's direction – even if it is tempered with a dose of reality. The number of pieces sold and the prices at which they moved were still pretty far from what they were in the pre-Lehman days. For now, though, collectors need to think about the early stages of recovery, not hope for a return to the glory days of 2007.
The auction houses did fairly well, though estimates tend to be far lower than a year ago. Damien Hirst's Wallace Collection moved well, with "Two Skulls" selling for $705,244, far more than its presale estimate. Emerging artists had moments in the sun, as well, particularly Hurvin Anderson's "Untitled (Beach Scene)," which sold for $158,304 – more than three times its presale estimate. Farhad Moshiri's "Cowboy and Indian" more than doubled its presale estimate, with a price of $548,976. In general, the auctions posted sufficient results, the first step in a market turn. Sotheby's and Christie's pierced the $20 million mark in recent contemporary auctions, and Phillips de Pury moved 31 of 43 lots to reach $6.7 million in a recent contemporary auction.
Now that the art market is moving from Frieze to FIAC and into the busy fall auction season, we'll get a sense of what 2010 will look like ... and if the market is finally picking up the momentum we all want it to show. The last art market slump, from 1990 to 1992, didn't bring an immediate resolution, with prices not returning to normal until 1995. So, brace yourselves for a slow recovery (or treat it as bargain season!).