Paris defies large fall in global auction sales

Paris defies large fall in global auction sales

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First-half auction sales fell 27 per cent to $4.25bn in the first half of 2024 compared with the same period last year, on the back of “sluggish economic growth and geopolitical uncertainty”, says the analysis business ArtTactic. Its new report does offer some green shoots — volumes remained relatively steady (down 2 per cent) and online-only sales grew 14 per cent in value. Such dynamics are “a potential pathway for sustained engagement and growth in the broader market”, writes ArtTactic’s founder Anders Petterson.

His analysis covers fine art and luxury sales at the three most international auction houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, excluding real estate and cars and including commissions. Sotheby’s had the deepest decline, down 35 per cent to $1.8bn, with Christie’s down 22 per cent at $2.1bn and taking market share from its main rival (49 per cent versus Sotheby’s 43 per cent).

Sales at Phillips, with the remaining small slice of market share, fell relatively modestly by 7 per cent. This auction house, unusually, made the highest sale of the period, with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled (Elmar)” (1982) sold for $46.5mn in New York in May. Other rarities include an Old Master painting — Chardin’s oval “Le Melon entamé” (1760) — featuring in the top 10, having sold at Christie’s in Paris for €26.7mn. The biggest single-owner collection, sold in the same saleroom, was Barbier-Mueller’s African and Oceanic art (€73.1mn). Such sales helped Paris defy the wider trend with first-half totals up 12 per cent to $317mn; this is a geographical market share of 7.5 per cent (up from 4.9 per cent last year), ArtTactic finds.

Art work featuring three women hugging. They have white flowers in their hair and are standing in front of a square frame
Dawit Adnew’s ‘Friends II’ © Addis Fine Art

Addis Fine Art is closing its permanent space in London, having opened in Fitzrovia in 2021. The decision comes “as overhead costs rise and market uncertainty grows” while “niche galleries like ours have extremely low margins”, says co-founder Rakeb Sile. Her gallery will continue to operate in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, where it opened in 2016, with plans for more art fairs, pop-up shows and collaborative exhibitions internationally.

Forthcoming joint exhibitions in London include a show of Tadesse Mesfin at Vigo Gallery (from September 19) while Dawit Adnew and Adiskidan Ambaye feature in a group show at John Martin Gallery (September 12-20). Addis Fine Art will also return to London’s 1-54 art fair in October. “People are realising that in order for galleries to flourish, they need to find ways of working together,” Sile says. Her last show in the London space, of Sudanese artist Amel Bashier, closed on June 29.

Also closing is Vitrine, a gallery that opened in London in 2012 and in Basel in 2016, citing the “well documented” challenges that galleries face today.

A painting on a yellow background with a skinny blue figure and a white lamp
‘Lámpara’ (2024) by Kathy Murillo, who features in the line-up at the (Actually) Attainable Art Fair © ST.ART Gallery

Prices at the multi-venue Affordable Art Fair run to £7,500 in the UK so now comes a new event: the (Actually) Attainable Art Fair, with works capped at £600 (July 25-28). Running in the 2,000 sq ft space of ST.ART Gallery in Fitzrovia, the event is “a micro-fair” for 19 selected artists, says AAAF founder Charlie Pannell. whose gallery opened in May. The point, he says, “is to be an entry point for younger people or those on a lower budget”.

Artists, who pay £50 to show, can bring as many works as they like: “At these [price] levels they need to be fairly compensated,” Pannell says. Participants include Kathy Murillo and Reinhard Agyekum.

An oil painting of a snail on a blue background with the words ‘The Snail in Search For the Lost Husband’ above and below the image. There are small models of snails around the image
Sophie Barber’s ‘The Snail and the Lost Husband’ (2024) © Alison Jacques

New gallery entrants, including Pace, Alison Jacques and Kyoto’s Imura, were among the 69 exhibitors for the second edition of Tokyo Gendai in the Pacifico Yokohama convention centre (July 5-7). Reported sales came slowly, but there was optimism aplenty. “There is an energy to the contemporary art market in Tokyo and Japan in general which feels exciting,” said Jacques, who made “multiple sales” of work by the British painter Sophie Barber (£4,500-£20,000). Pace Gallery, which boosted the local mood with the soft opening of its new Tokyo space, reported fair sales of drawings by Robert Longo to local collectors ($90,000-$750,000). 

“Step by step, we are growing something significant, but we don’t need to get there overnight,” says Tokyo Gendai’s co-founder Magnus Renfrew. He envisions about 100 exhibitors for “a gravitational pull”, he says. Coinciding this year with the hottest part of the year in Tokyo, and at the start of the summer holidays for many exhibitors and visitors, organisers have moved next year’s event to a time they describe as the start of the cultural season in Japan (September 12-14).

An image featuring a group of people standing near a table with a camping light. A man in a black jacket with a red dot on his face is holding a gun. There is a blue dot on the face of a woman and a yellow dot on the face of the person standing between them
John Baldessari’s ‘Untitled’ (2024) © John Baldessari Family Foundation/Sprüth Magers

Next week marks the opening of a museum show of 45 paintings, photographs and installations by John Baldessari, which all belong to the Miami property developer Craig Robins. The End of the Line at the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Malba) spans 50 years of work and is the conceptual California artist’s first retrospective in South America (July 17-November 18).

Robins, whose 1,500-piece collection comprises contemporary art and design, says he began buying Baldessari’s work from the 1990s until the artist died in 2020. The show is not a precursor to selling the works: “I wouldn’t collaborate with a museum to promote an exhibition and then sell it,” he says, although he notes this is something that other collectors sometimes do. Malba has its roots in private collecting — it was founded in 2001 around works owned by Eduardo Costantini, another property developer. Exhibitions have long been “bolstered by the commitment of other patrons”, says chief curator María Amalia García.

The Art Market column takes a summer break and will be back in September

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