Artprice's quarterly Global Art Market Index normally shows seasonal fluctuations and, in the longer run, has shown a slight contraction since 2016. In 2020, despite the health crisis, the trend has continued unperturbed without any visible drop.
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We would expect to see some sort of latent price correction, but it will probably not become visible until after a return to ‘normal' trading. In times of crisis, the Art Market slows down its supply by raising the qualitative selectivity of lots offered to avoid disappointments and maintain price levels. This year, the lockdowns took effect before auction houses had time to react, forcing an abrupt halt to transactions and then subsequently slowing their recovery.
“The Art Market has its own defense mechanisms”, says thierry Ehrmann, President and Founder of Artmarket.com and its Artprice department. “The real price impact of the health crisis will not be fully visible until the auction market returns to a normal volume of trade (500,000 lots sold at auctions per year) and, above all, until private sales have successfully established enough new channels to offset the absence of major fairs and the closure of so many galleries. For the time being, we are pleased to note that the secondary a rt m arket is finding the necessary resources in terms of the numbers of lots offered, technical solutions and financial liquidity to ensure a decent level of activity.”
Artprice calculates its Global Art Market Indices on the basis of the results obtained at public sales exclusively. However, this segment of the market appears to have adapted more quicky and successfully to lockdown measures: from the beginning of the year to the end of October, global art auction turnover contracted by only -25% versus FY 2019 with the number of lots sold falling only -16%. Auction houses have therefore managed to continue with the bulk of their operations, which is not the case for lots of galleries and art fairs.
Several auction records have also proved that art market prices have by no means been systematically undermined. On the contrary, they have remained relatively robust this year. The sale of Giorgio de Chirico's painting Il pomeriggio di Arianna (1913) for $15.9 million at Sotheby's in New York on 29 October 2020 illustrates a market still keen to acquire masterpieces. The sale of Boticelli's Young Man Holding a Roundel has been postponed until January. Auction houses may be delaying some sales, but they are ensuring the continuity of transactions.
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