The health of the top end, contemporary fine art market seems to be strong. Last night’s round 1 of 2 days of contemporary sales at Sotheby’s New York demonstrates on the surface that the art world has much to look forward too. This is despite the contagion in the financial systems currently.
One of the marque works up for auction, the self portrait of Andy Warhol, had initial estimates of $10 to $15 Million. When the event was over, Mr. Warhol’s black background purple face acrylic on canvas grossed $32,562,500. Was this a case of the auction house padding/keeping the original estimate low knowing the bidding would get it to its fair market value? Partially. With only one other impression known available to private collectors, this specific work garnered the double in the auction estimate because of it’s classic “I’m Andy” perspective. The painting joins 4 other known works in the medium and with the same dimensions (108 x 108 in. 274.3 x 274.3 cm.). The provenance aided in the pricing too – this work was sold by Tom Ford (Retailer).
Ultimately the bidding is a reflection of opportunity knocks only so often – this being one of them. For the serious collector, fishing for an important contemporary statement piece, this Warhol sale seems to be a fairly priced catch. Last night’s success though has one other driving force behind it: the diversification quality of art.
Today, unlike other periods previously, we are witnessing the liquidity of art. The presence of the internet enables collectors to connect with galleries and auction houses fluidly. For buyers and sellers access to pricing and discovery is now accessible. Does this mean that flipping art like real estate happens? Not a chance. As such fine art is a true store of wealth for a portfolio. Over time, the work by a collected, known and “liquid” artist does have value – one which can rise.
Of course the real numbers and health of the contemporary art market lie in the 2nd day results at more than just one auction house.