“old masters”

The Old Masters market

Between a reality often distorted by figures, and the legendary discretion of art dealing, it’s difficult to grasp the health of the Old Masters market. While the July sales in London struck it lucky, where does the Old Masters segment really stand? An investigation. The market is a drama… nourished by signs and symbols. Every year, it is played out, once again, according to a perfectly rehearsed staging, by big auction sessions, report publications and grand dinner occasions. According to whether prices are up or down, whether interest rates flash green or red lights, we scream bloody murder or else murmur congratulations at fairs, all the while speculating on art-market bubbles. In the meantime, the media monitors the scene, rushing to spread news on the latest favourites on the stage of this worldly theatre. According to dealer Arnaud De Jonckheere, “these figures conceal the reality”. Figures, in fact, reflect auctions and reports. They are indicators that are necessary for objectivising a market which begs for analysis and commentary. The problem is that these curves are today largely indexed on a few records that bring joy to major auction houses, with an inclination towards sourcing out new works. Meanwhile, reports rely on resources that are necessarily incomplete, often data on the dealing world, dependent on the goodwill of professional syndicates. Hence a bothersome dialectic: figures and reports hide as much as they reveal. The paradox comes to the fore all the more in a world marked by secrecy, as remarks Bertrand Gautier, from gallery Talabardon & Gautier: “We used to be a profession based on a certain notion of secrecy, and we remain discreet people. But in the last ten years, the profession has changed in colossal proportions.” How exactly, we might very well ask. A globally stable market The...

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The Echo of the Old Masters

The Old Masters market is a passionate market. It is primarily driven by the enthusiasm of its participants-gallery owners, dealers, collectors, art historians – to discover and rediscover forgotten pieces of history. A finite market in its very essence, the auction houses, however, still manage to emerge from the shadow of the large canvases of the masters. Product sales for the works of Old Masters, according to the Artprice report of 2014, has remained extremely stable over the decade of 2004-2014. A stable market that is becoming scarce Clear speculative issues and the price volatility inherent to the contemporary art market, the Old Masters market is, according to Artprice, the smallest segment of the art market in the West. In 2014, it took around $650 million award, or 6% of sales – against 10% in 2004 – to 4% of lots sold. However, the Old Master sales, deemed as being reserved for insiders, are essential to the renown of auction houses. In mid-October 2015, Christie’s revealed its new strategy to develop its Old Masters sales, which were first held in January 2015. The house has replaced the traditional sales in January with a new themed week of sales, the “Classic Art Week” to be held at the Rockefeller Centre in New York in April 2016. This initiative aims to revitalise the image of this category of works, increasingly neglected by collectors. Jussi Pylkkänen, president of Christie’s Europe, commented “The series promises to revitalize this wonderful area that is the DNA of the art market.” The best result of the January 2015 edition was €9 million for a portrait by Bronzino. If the market for old masters paintings is not so apparent in the media and more linear in terms of sales, despite regular surprises on some pieces of exceptional...

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Dorotheum’s Old Masters Sale made €8.9million

On 20 October 2015, Dorotheum auction house, Vienna, Austria held their Old Masters Painting sale. The selection of works offered was extensive, varying from landscapes to historical paintings, portraits and still lifes, with many schools of painting represented from a variety of periods. Many works sold well, including two portraits of Philip III of Spain and his wife, Margaret of Austria, by the workshop of Franz Pourbus II, which went for €393,400, fetching far above their estimated prices. Paintings by the Brueghel family also sold well, with Canal Landscape with Two Workshops at the Banks by Jan Brueghel I, measuring only 17.5 by 22.5 cm, selling for €369,000 to a telephone bidder. Other artists to have sold well include Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Jan Flyt with their works The Goddess Diana Receiving Her Quarry and the Adoration of the Magi Altarpiece fetching particular high prices. Portraits of Vincenzo I Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua and Grand Duke Cosimo I also created a stir and sold well. In total, the sale in Vienna made €8,959,129 in revenue....

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Christie’s revamping its Old Masters Sales

During mid-October 2015, Christie’s, revealed its new strategic plans to revamp its Old Masters Sales which initially were held in January. Christie’s is replacing the January sale with a new themed week of sales, Classic Art Week which will take place at Rockefeller Centre, New York in April 2016. The initiative aims to rejuvenate a category that is becoming less and less attractive to collectors. This week of sales will include Old Masters, sculpture, antiquities, decorative arts and a new curated sale entitled Revolution will be the centerpiece of this auction series. It will feature masterworks from the 18th to 20th century, including paintings, drawings, prints, photography and sculpture, which “will explore the radical social, political and artistic changes that defined this period of history”. According to Jussi Pylkkänen, President of Christie’s Europe, the decision was unanimous. “We have spoken to the collectors, art dealers and museum curators in these fields and so many are supportive of this new Classic Art Week concept and April provides the perfect moment in the auction calendar. The series promises to invigorate interest in these wonderful fields that are the DNA of the art market.”...

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Auction Results from Sales of Old Master’s and British Paintings at Sotheby’s

On July 8 and 9, the sales of old masters and British paintings conducted a total of 42.75 million pounds. The sale the evening of July 8 included important works from the Castle Howard collection from Yorkshire while a group of 17th century Dutch paintings led the following day. Among the star lots, La Bocca della Verita by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) dominated the evening sale by reaching 9.3 million, followed by Portrait of a boy, said to be the artist’s son, aged 8 (1652) by Ferdinand Bol, which sold for 5.18 million pounds. The following day, Venice, The Grand Canal looking North-East from the Chiesa Degli Scalzi to the Cannaregio by Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780) was awarded £473,000, nearly four times its high estimate, followed by Family portrait with husband, wife and two daughters by Pieter Codde (1599-1678), selling at £245,000, tripling its highest estimate. Alex Bell, international deputy director and associate chair of the department of paintings by old masters, said: “While the market for old masters and British paintings continues to evolve, we find that a more and more discerning and international collector base seeks to acquire more incresingly diversified...

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