is a very intellectual movement, the complexity of the philosophies behind it tend to put most people off trying to understand the meaning behind Surrealist works of art.
When demand for Surrealist works increases dramatically I tend to think that the market is once again seeking trophy works of art that provide that instant visual gratification as opposed to an approach to the purchase of works of art that focuses more on scholarly and connoisseurial factors. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s held sales during February that included a strong contingent of Surrealist works with Christie’s going as far as to hold a separate “Art of the Surreal” sale alongside their February 9 Impressionist and Modern Art sale. Christie’s held their big sale the night before Sotheby’s and got the ball rolling with a new auction record set for a work by Pierre Bonnard and a new auction record for a work by Dali. Although Christie’s set the Surrealist bar very high, Sotheby’s replied with a new auction record for Dali with ‘Portrait de Paul Eluard’ thus beating the Dali record set by Christie’s the night before. The price paid for the ‘Portrait de Paul Eluard’ was also a new auction record for any Surrealist work of art which gives Sotheby’s Surrealism bragging rights over Christie’s.
I wish I could say that I have confidence in the direction that the art market is heading, but recent events just can’t be ignored. As long as buyers continue to buy discriminately, there shouldn’t be a problem. I somehow, however, doubt this will be the case.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications