I promised to give you the 2004 wrap-up – and here it is!
2004 was a banner year for the art market in general. Most periods of art saw continued interest from seasoned collectors and many new buyers ventured into the waters.
In the Contemporary markets we saw fierce competition for many of the Blue Chip and ‘New Chip’ artists with prices reaching dizzying heights. It will be interesting to see if there is serious follow-through this year, or will buyers become a little more selective and look to purchase only quality works? If, or more accurately when, this happens I think we will see a quick correction and it may not be a very pretty one – be prepared to hold on to your seats and those of you who are prone to motion sickness, please have some Dramamine ready ... it could be a wild ride!!
The Modern markets saw a steady increase in interest and while prices are high, there appears to be some quality buying taking place. The important works are selling for high prices, but they deserve to, and many of the less than interesting works are having a hard time. This is the sign of a healthy market. I would be surprised if this market does not continue to improve through 2005.
The 19th century American painting market appears to be as strong as ever and some record prices were achieved last month. Most notable among them was John Singer Sargent’s Group with Parasols which made a record $23.5 million (word is the owners paid $24,000 for this painting back in the early 1960s). Not only was this a record for the artist’s work, but it appears to be the second most expensive American painting sold at auction; George Bellows still holds the record at just over $27 million. Also bringing home the bacon were Everett Shinn with his Stage Scene commanding $7.8 million; George Bellows’ Kids at $6.16 million; Fitz Hugh Lane’s Manchester Harbor made a record $5.5 million; George de Forest Brush’s The Indian and the Lilly at $4.82 million; Dennis Miller Bunker’s Portrait of Anne Page at $3.59 million and another Bellows – The Studio – at $2.47 million. Very few of the works in the recent sales failed to find buyers and some of those that sold were less than stellar. It will be interesting to see how this market fairs in the coming year.
The Impressionist market has had an interesting year and appears to be fairly buoyant. The works of merit that have materialized at public sale commanded strong prices; while those less desirable ones were having trouble. It is also interesting to note that aside from a few huge prices – Picasso to name one – many of the quality works appear to be good values at this time. Thinking back to the go-go days of the late 1980s, prices for many of these artists are now just beginning to reach those levels again, and considering that was 15 or more years ago, many of these works may, in fact, prove to be good buys.
The 19th century European market has keep up a steady pace all year and appears to be on track for another solid year. The auction rooms have had trouble attracting a strong selection of solid works, but those they do get, are achieving strong prices. It is also nice to see that the many inferior quality pieces are having trouble finding buyers … though sadly, some do.
Just to give you an overview of the art, collectible, automobile, and antique market during 2004, here are some of the more recent impressive results: an early Ming blue and white “Dragon & Phoenix” brushwasher (c1403-1425) brought $3.42 million; A Chinese gilt-bronze Buddhist figure from the 15th century sold for $2.33 million; The Badminton Cabinet that sold in 1990 for $15 million reappeared on the market in December where it commanded $36.6 million – establishing a record for a piece of furniture at auction; Babe Ruth’s bat that he used to hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium brought $1.26 million – WOW!; a circa 1740 Philadelphia tall-case clock sold in October for a record $1.68 million; an American japanned high chest sold for $1.87 million; and the 1929 Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSK 2 Seater made a whopping $7.5 million – not too bad for a used car!
As you can see, exceptional prices can be found across the many markets and as the demand for quality works increase from a growing number of buyers, the only place to go from here is up. This is not to say that everything being offered for sale will increase in value, but if you buy the right works, from the right people, the odds are definitely in your favor.
The Right Art Can Help Heal!
It was recently reported in The Art Newspaper that a London hospital spent over $460,000 on works of art for its new breast cancer screening facility. The hospital defended the expenditure by stating that: “there is evidence that, art will speed patient’s recovery by improving their spirits”. The article also noted a couple of studies that found patient’s stress levels were diminished when they were surrounded by works of art. Roger Ulrich, a behavioral scientist at Texas A & M, has shown that patients exposed to ‘emotionally appropriate works of art’ were less anxious, required less medication and recovered more quickly post-operation. However, he also commented that ‘certain research indicates that types of emotionally challenging, provocative works of art can actually worsen stress, pain and other outcomes -- so much for some of those Contemporary Cutting-Edge works.
I am now suggesting that all of our clients take two paintings home and there may be no need to call us in the morningJ! And for all of our Doctor clients who have favored those abstract works of art as decoration for their office, it may be time to buy something far more soothing for the patients.
Crime and Punishment
Eli Sakhai, owner of Exclusive Art gallery in New York, agreed to pay $12.5 million and surrender 11 works of art in a plea deal. He also agreed to a jail term of between 3 and 4 years for his part in selling forged paintings by a number of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masters. Sakhai would buy the original works, have copies made and sell both the copies and the originals. Among the more interesting transactions that helped bring his actions to light were: when a fake Gauguin and the real one, both sold by Sakhai, appeared at two different New York auctions in May of 2000 – experts were called in to view both works and the fake was withdrawn. It is interesting to note that one of the auction rooms had fully catalogued the fake! Another was when, as reported in the Maine Antique Digest, Sakhai sold a forged Marc Chagall painting … to a Taiwan art gallery, which later sold the painting through Sotheby’s. The painting was revealed to be a forgery, however, by the Comite Marc Chagall in Paris. The painting was seized and destroyed.
In an unrelated story, the Maine Antique Digest reports that Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced the resolution of cases arising from an investigation of phony bidding in on-line auctions. Jerrold Schuster (former owner of New Windsor Auction Gallery) pleaded guilty to Combination in Restraint of Trade and two former employees – Darek Szydlowski and Francis Komsisky, Jr. – pleaded guilty to Attempted Combination in Restraint of Trade. According to the criminal charges, these individuals placed bids on over 1100 items they offered on eBay for the sole purpose of driving up the prices. The illegal bidding had been going on for 5 years.
This is not the first time Schuster has been caught. Back in May of 2000 Mr. Spitzer filed suit against Jerrold and his daughter Jill for selling fake works of art over the internet and at their Antique & Design Center. Total sales were in excess of $75,000 and included works purportedly to be by J.H. Sharp, Martha Walter, Couse, Rose, Lukes, Soyer and Daniel Ridgway Knight.
Gallery Updates: Our Streets of Paris exhibition continues and there are some great works by Cortes, Blanchard and Laloue on display. New works by Edouard Cortès, Antoine Blanchard, Eugene Galien Laloue, Oliver Clare, Vincent Clare, and Heidi Coutu have been added to our web site this month.
January started out a little slow, but finished with a roar. Among the works that found new homes were; Julien Dupre’s La Bergere; Fritz Zuber-Buhler’s Poesie; Hippolyte C. Delpy’s Le Rivierea pont sur Yvonne; Edouard Leon Cortes’ Place de l’Opera; Porte St. Denis; Porte St. Denis in Winter; The Pantheon; and Concarneaux in Bretagne; Eugene Galien Laloue’s Flower Market; and Antoine Blanchard’s Boulevard de la Madeleine. We also sold over 50 photographs, yes photographs, by Ralph Steiner, Aaron Siskind, Andre Kertesz, Robert Rauschenberg, and Eugene Atget – if you want to see some of them, use our ‘keyword search’ (under the Online Inventory button) and type in the word ‘photograph’ – make sure you check the ‘sold inventory’ option as well.
Virtual Exhibitions: We have added two new images to Rehs Galleries, Inc. – A Visual History. The first is William A. Bouguereau’s 1879 painting titled La Frileuse. This is a painting the gallery sold last fall and it is a great example of the artist’s work, executed during the height of his career. For all you Bouguereau fans, this is worth the look:
The second painting is Tom Mostyn’s Gather Ye Rose Buds While Ye May. This, without a doubt, is among the most important paintings by Mostyn to have ever appeared on the market. The gallery sold this masterpiece about 5 years ago and I believe you will all enjoy seeing it: