News-Antique.com - Sep 30,2011 - Contemporary Art Market Karma at Phillips de Pury Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com
Sotheby’s and Christie’s tend to pull the wool over the eyes of the market when they produce their “not so contemporary” art auctions which is why the contemporary art focused auction house Phillips de Pury is the one to watch when it comes to the contemporary art market. Since dedicating themselves to the contemporary art scene, and proving themselves dedicated to promoting the work of “true” contemporary artists, Phillips de Pury have had to deal with the volatility of the contemporary art market and have struggled to compete with the power of Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Having endured a succession of ups and downs over the last few years, the risk Phillips de Pury have taken on young emerging talent and many of today’s leading contemporary artists is currently paying off as the market for contemporary art heats up.
The success of their Contemporary Art Evening sale, which realized £11,243,350/$16,923,234 in total, selling 95% by value and 87% by lot, proves that Phillips de Pury do have the potential for greatness – but only under certain conditions. Although they were able to achieve a 189% growth on their 2010 London June Contemporary Art Evening Sale, close analysis of their catalogue reveals a clever strategy that takes full advantage of a range of current trends. Being a company that focuses on a rather narrow niche compared to most other auction houses, the opportunity to take advantage of such a wide range of strong trends within that niche is usually quite rare but is becoming more frequent as the number of strong submarkets of the global contemporary art market increase.
What makes the contemporary art market so difficult to profit from, especially for a contemporary focused auction house, is that the market for contemporary art is essentially driven by a series of trends within an ever changing and ever increasing number of submarkets. These often volatile submarkets can be defined by many different factors and characteristics including culture, geography, style, medium and many others. Because all these submarkets progress at different rates and operate at different levels of maturity, they all require a slightly different approach, which means unless your business is focused on a particular submarket of the contemporary art market, which most auction houses aren’t (except Macdougall’s Russian art auction house), finding a successful approach for a submarket is often a case of trial and error.
By focusing on a niche market that has as many highly active submarkets as the contemporary art market does, and is driven primarily by primary market sales, Phillips de Pury have put themselves in a position where they need to try and keep ahead of current trends as much as possible and, if viable, maintain as much of a primary market presence as possible. One way that Phillips try to maintain a primary market presence is by championing the work of contemporary artists who they feel are worthy of the attention – artists