Hiscox Comments on Recent Art Sales

June 27, 2008

A bulletin from Hiscox in London notes that “modern, contemporary and 19th century European art continues to see double digit growth despite global uncertainty. The value of modern and contemporary art has continued to see significant rises and has not yet suffered significantly from the current turmoil in global financial markets,” according to a study of auction sales.

Hiscox, one of a handful of insurers who specialize in coverage for works of art, indicated that the trend is good news for the main London auction houses, which have scheduled upcoming sales.

The day following Hiscox bulletin, Christie’s sold Claude Monet’s painting “Le Bassin Aux Nympheas” (The Lilly Pond) for a record breaking £40.9 million ($80.5 million), nearly twice the high estimate.

“One finding that will be of particular interest to investors is that after years in the relative doldrums, 19th century European art has seen a remarkable 13 percent rise in value since March 2007,” said Hiscox.

The interim findings from the Hiscox-Art Market Research (HAMR) index tracks auction sales from March 2007 to March 2008, and so covers six months before and after the impact of the global credit crisis. It gives, therefore, an early indication of the strength of the art market in the current financial climate.

“The 29.7 percent rise in value of modern art may come as little surprise to those with an eye on the market,” Hiscox said. Last month, a Monet painting (Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil) sold for more than £20 million [$39.73 million] in New York, breaking the record for the French impressionist artist. Also in May, the record for a living artist was broken when a life-sized Lucian Freud painting (Benefits Supervisor Sleeping) sold for over £17 million [$33.77 million].

“However, the more mid-price works have not fared as well. While big ticket items are still proving attractive to private investors, a number of mid-range priced lots of around £150,000 to £1million [$298,000 to $1.98 million] – which have traditionally had a strong following among the big earners in the City – have remained unsold.”

Hiscox art expert Charles Dupplin commented: “The current art-buying scene is a tale of two markets. The big ticket, record-breaking items are still being bought by wealthy individuals, with relatively new entrants to the art investment market, from Russia and Asia, for example, adding to demand. This area of the market is bucking the general economic trend, even if the rise in value does seem to be slowing somewhat. However, the mid-range items up to the £1million mark are suffering, and I suspect some City based collectors are feeling the crunch.

“Although the full picture won’t be known until later this year, it does seem that the art market is remaining reasonably robust, with some specific segments, such as 19th century European art, even undergoing a form of renaissance.”

Source: Hiscox – www.hiscox.com

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