Contemporary works paint bright picture
Unlike financial markets, this sector is enjoying a bumper year but the good times may have peaked, writes Amanda Lee
Art prices rose 18 per cent last year compared with 2006, according to a report by art data provider Artprice. The total fine arts market revenue was worth US$9.2billion, up 43.5 per cent in 2006.
The report noted that the art market performed well even though financial markets had turned volatile in the last quarter of 2007.
Total sales volumes were driven by the more speculative and volatile contemporary segment at the end of last year.
For example, premier auction house Sotheby's recorded its all-time best sale (November14), generating total revenues of US$316million from its Contemporary Art Evening.
The day before the sale, Sotheby's rival Christie's sold US$325million worth of contemporary art. In May, it recorded sales of US$385million.
In the global art revenue ranking, the mainland has overtaken France to take third place behind the United States and Britain.
Last year, the Chinese market generated 27 sales above the million-dollar mark, with a top price of US$8.5million for art work by Cai Guoqiang. According to Artprice, the price was a record for Chinese contemporary art.
This record was followed by sales from two other artists, Xu Beihong (HK$64million) and Chen Chengbo (HK$45million). Last year, 36 Chinese artists featured in the Artprice index for the top 100 contemporary artists by sales revenues.
The report said that Chinese artists outperformed high-profile artists in the United States.
But the report said that 'the exceptional high prices were starting to look like ceiling prices because the economic outlook is clouding over'.
'The art market is unlikely to remain immune to the weaker health of the global economy or to strong turbulence in the financial markets ... we can expect a certain lag behind financial markets in view of the relative inertia of catalogue price estimates, and the time it will take to liquidate the related stocks.'
Top 10 artists (2007)
(based on the total revenue generated by sales)
Andy Warhol US$420 million
Pablo Picasso US$319 million
Francis Bacon US$245 million
Mark Rothko US$207 million
Claude Monet US$165 million
Henri Matisse US$114 million
Jean-Michel Basquiat US$102 million
Fernand Leger US$92 million
Marc Chagall US$89 million
Paul Cezanne US$87 million