The Dealers speak out

They’re the ones who murmur into the ears of collectors. Gallerists play a crucial role in the tribal-art economy. For this special issue, a number of them, each with their own specialities, have agreed to share their feelings on the sector. Confidences. At auctions, the eclectic nature of the tribal-art market indicates sure growth in the long term, both in terms of the number of lots placed on sale and their proceeds, even if the last three years have seen heavy fluctuations, if not a slight decline. However, by overshadowing the reality of the world of dealers, auction results are only a partial indicator of the health of a sector characterised by deep restructuring. Between a generational shift among collectors, sourcing difficulties, and a complex balance between auction houses and dealers, what does the future hold? Collectors: a new generation takes the reins? In the eyes of Alain Lecomte from the gallery Abla & Alain Lecomte, specialised in ancient African arts, there’s no doubt about it: the sector is in for a shakeup: “The tribal-art market is at its early stages; we are talking about a form of art that is still relatively unknown by the international market. Everything is yet to be achieved. The current market — more specifically, that of ancient African art, but in my opinion, the same goes for other forms of tribal art — is mainly made up of passionate enthusiasts, people who invest themselves, who read specialist books, who spend a great deal of time on the topic, without necessarily being very well off. These are sincere collectors, and their number is growing, both in Europe and in the United States. They need to hurry up and create their collections, because soon the African continent is going to wake up. We can see...

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Singapore, a dull El Dorado?

The Singaporean art market is going through tough times. But despite difficulties, experts express optimism and see a market grounded on healthy foundations that should enable it to ride through this period of disturbance by strengthening its connectivity. There are some signs that don’t lie. Just look at the closure of several museums in the country including the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris and the departure of a few galleries, matched with lower museum visits and morose sales figures — that namely triggered the cancellation of the Singapore Art Fair and the Milan Image Art & Design Fair Singapore despite the great success of their inaugural editions. While the market’s global economic value has increased in the last decade, going up from $340.3 million to $528.7 million in 2013, the last two years have seen a correction of the market. The Singaporean art market is relatively young at around fifty years old. Bala Starr, director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, makes the following observation: “The art scene here needs to be connected to the world. Commerce occurs in the context of the wider scene. The biggest advantage for Singapore is to form a positive and consistent reputation as a backer of the arts in Asia. That Singapore is a young market is a benefit to us because it gives us the opportunity to convert people into art...

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First figures form the TEFAF 2016 report

The first figures published by the TEFAF 2016 report confirm the decline in art sales in 2015. The report points to a 7 % drop in the art market — generating a total turnover of $63.8 billion compared with $68.2 billion in 2014. Clare McAndrew’s report is based on data from public sales, financial databases as well as an anonymous survey distributed to 6,000 dealers. Only 14 % of the dealers responded to the survey whose ambition is to provide information that is as fair as possible on the art market. The report indicates that while post-war, modern and contemporary art have yielded the highest sums, the market for old masters has grown by 4 % despite a 33 % fall in sales. The report also shows the extreme polarisation of the market. Works selling for over $1 million represent 57 % of the value of auction sales even if they only represent 1 % of transactions. In China (19 % of the market), auction sales fell by 23 % and the country slipped to 3rd place behind the United States (4% rise, ranked first in the art market with 43 % of the market share in terms of value) and the United Kingdom (9 % drop, 2nd with 21 %). This is the logical evolution for a market that has undergone very significant growth in the last decade. According to Clare McAndrew, “the main reason for the negative growth is that the bigger the market gets, the harder it is to keep growing at as fast a...

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Guarantee providers and counterparties reap rewards of booming auction market, report Skate’s

In a recent report, entitled While Auction Sales Surge, Private Sales and Margins Decline – So Where Do the Economic Benefits Go?, Skate’s conclude that the real winners of the current surge in auction sales are neither the auction houses themselves, nor consumers, but rather counterparties and guarantee providers. Despite the low interest rates and sustainable capital inflows for the art asset class, along with the fact that Christie’s and Sotheby’s together are responsible for 94% of auction sales of over $1 million, with the latter auction house breaking all-time records for GMD last year (at $5.15 billion), both Sotheby’s and Christies are under-performing both in terms of share price and profit margins. According to Skate’s, therefore, it is not the auction houses that are benefitting from the high hammer prices and sales volumes, the report claiming: “the biggest beneficiaries are the auction guarantee providers (pocketing significant “overages”) and a very small group of select consigners and frequent large bidders receiving rebates and special deals, often structured through private sales and other commercial arrangements,” adding that “few and key counterparties have likely seen a lot of economic benefit from the surge in art trading volumes, the skyrocketing of hammer prices (well above guaranteed levels) and of the overall lack of transparency and rationality in art asset...

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Christie’s leads the Indian art market

According to ArtMarketInsight, Christie’s, who inaugurated their new branch in Mumbai, India, in December 2013, has become the leading auction house on the Indian art market. The great success of the auction house’s new Mumbai branch as well as ever increasing demand from Indian buyers, was proved by the results of their first South Asian Art sale, which amassed a sum of $15.455 million including fees, which was double of the estimated total; 98% of lots were sold. Christie’s are also doing particularly successfully in terms of the Indian market for Modern and Contemporary art. The Indian Sale that took place on 11 December 2014 was particularly profitable, with a sum of $12 million including fees. The most prized work in Christie’s recent Mumbai sale was a painting by Indian modern artist Tyeb Mehta, Untitled (Falling Bull), which the auction house reproduced on the front cover of its December sales catalogue, and which generated $2.421...

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