Nervousness runs through the auction houses given the negative data that has occurred in the most exclusive in the last month. After two indisputable years of magnificent figures, it is feared that the market will consolidate stagnation or get worse. Every time the hammer hits the price of a lot, the audience takes their wrist pulse to assess the level of risk. The world of the stock market and that of art share traits that are as sensitive as they are hypochondriac. A simple fatigue can turn overnight into an extremely serious symptom that makes the thermometers explode among the panic of collectors and auction houses, generating the chaos of a business in 2022 that moved 26 billion dollars.
After the catastrophe that the Covid-19 caused in the global economy and also in art, which maintained the rate thanks to online auctions despite falling 18% compared to 2019, in November 2021 there was a buying euphoria due to the desire to recovery and the appearance on the market of works and collections out of series. That year, sales of contemporary and post-war art -the most important sector within the plastic arts or fine arts, with 54% of the total – reached $8.5 billion, down $1 billion in 2022, according to the last Art Market Report, of the USB bank and the Art Basel fair.
Now, considering that decline between 2021 and 2022, some fear that the trend heralds a more important problem, because things are not improving. Marta Perez Ibanez, historian and specialist in the art market, points out the “remarkable setback in sales” that occurred last May, when the spring auction season is held in New York, as opposed to the autumn one, in November. Those of 2023 have dropped “more than 45% compared to those of 2022,” says the specialist. Also, two weeks ago, in London’s modern and contemporary art auction season, Christie’s sold 76% less than last year, according to art market analyst Lucia Homs.
“We can give many arguments about the macroeconomic situation to explain what is happening, such as runaway inflation or the crisis in raw materials,” continues Homs. “All these elements of the economy and geopolitics are affecting the art market, which is giving mixed signals. Analyzing the results of the London auctions with a magnifying glass, you see that Christie’s has played a flat. But, at the same time, the most expensive work in history has been sold at a European auction»: a beautiful Gustav Klimt liquidated at 98 million euros and titled lady with fan (1917). “Insecurity always tends to shrink the art market,” agrees Marta Pérez Ibáñez. “But the sale of works at affordable prices and very prominent artists, with high prices, continues.”