2013 was the best year ever recorded in auction history (over $12 billion), and was marked by nearly 15,000 new records for artists – over 23,000 if first bids are included, according to an analysis of the 2013 art market by French art market experts Artprice. However, Artprice chairman Thierry Ehrmann says that despite the dramatic growth, the market should be safe from sudden collapse.
“Are the escalating prices and the prestige sales arousing frenzied competition, where profit can climb by several millions in a few minutes, the symptom of a new speculative bubble? The answer is no, according to the market players, who consider that there has been a profound change in the state of affairs,” says Ehrmann.
He says it is significant that the art market no longer depends on a handful of wealthy buyers whose withdrawal from the game would cause a general collapse, but is now nourished by a growing number of extremely rich buyers who have been won over to the high spheres of the art market for various reasons.
“We are now seeing the emergence of new museums designed to make nations shine; private collectors rubber-stamping their pedigrees through the quality of their collections; investment funds which sometimes revise their choices after nurturing micro-bubbles and productive to-ings and fro-ings over new names, and new billionaire buyers for whom the acquisition of a major work is simultaneously a personal adventure, a form of social enhancement and a prime investment,” he says.
“This splendid year was shored up by a globalised demand, particularly with buyers from Asia, the Middle East and Russia, who played a crucial role in the market’s fine performance, and displayed a voracious appetite for flagship artists of the 20th century, landing them in a spate of records,” says Ehrmann.
“In addition, eight of the fifty top bids in 2013 went to living artists and the Top 50 bids even include a 21st century work: The Last Supper (2001) by Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi.”