Art Market Past and Present - artmarketblog.com If you believe that art auction results are the be all and end all of the art market and that art auction results tell the full story of the evolution of art prices then you should rethink things
News-Antique.com - Nov 22,2008 - Art Market Past and Present - artmarketblog.com
If you believe that art auction results are the be all and end all of the art market and that art auction results tell the full story of the evolution of art prices then you should probably reconsider your point of view. What art auction results do reflect is an extremely narrow view of how art market participants are reacting to the various influences that affect what price people are willing to pay for a work of art at a very specific moment in time. Looking at the sale history of an artwork over a period of one or two years or for that matter even five years may not give enough information to be able to truly appreciate how the value of that artwork has evolved.
It is difficult to make sense of what is happening when so many different points of view are being expressed by various experts and the media but when one puts things into perspective the figures speak for themselves. As an example of what I am talking about I will use the recent sale of the work “Untitled” (1992) by Albert Oehlen at the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day auction on the 12th of November (2008). The estimate for this work was USD $250,000 - $300,000 however it sold for $200,000 (hammer price) which doesn’t appear to be a particularly good result but the full story of this work paints a different picture. First of all, lets look at the sale history of similar works. In June 2002 another “Untitled” work painting in 1989 by Oehlen of a similar size sold for USD $17,322 (hammer price) with several other similar works selling for around the same price. To put this into perspective, if someone had purchased “Untitled” (1992) at auction in 2001 for USD $17,322 (hammer price) and then sold the work for USD $200,000 (hammer price) at the November 12 2008 auction that person would have received an increase of around 860% (taking fees into consideration) on their initial investment which, regardless of the fact that the work sold for $50,000 under the estimate at Sotheby’s on November 12, is an extremely good return. The purpose of this example is to show that the performance of a work of art cannot be determined from one auction results but needs to be assessed using data from a period of at least 10 years.
Another work by Oehlen, “Untitled” (1990), was also sold at the same sale as the above mentioned “Untitled” (1992) but with an estimate of USD $200,000 - $300,000 which was a $50,000 wider estimate than the USD $250,000 - $300,000 estimate for “Untitled” (1990). Although they both sold for the same price and had the same upper estimate the different lower estimate resulted in the sale of one work looking better than the other work. The perceived performance of these works of art have been manipulated by the auction house which once again shows how