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Art Market Watch

On the occasion of the TEFAF Maastricht art fair (see the "Maastricht Report 2002" by Brook S. Mason), the European Fine Art Foundation has issued a survey that puts the global art market at €26.7-billion in annual sales, with €12-billion, or 45 percent, occurring in Europe. Other key findings of The European Art Market in 2002: A Survey:
  • The European art market comprises 28,600 business directly employing approximately 73,600 people. Ancillary businesses employ another 61,000.
  • The art trade reaches across national borders, with imports from outside the European Union totaling €1.53 billion and exports to non-EU countries totaling €1.81 in 1999, the most recent year for which figures were available.
  • From 1998 to 2001, the average price of a work of fine art sold at auction in the EU declined 39 percent to $7,662. The average price of a painting sold in the UK during the same period increased 54 percent to $24,968, while in the U.S., the average price increased 75 percent to $79,003. Globally, the average price of a work of art increased 63 percent between 1992 and 2002, an annual average increase of six percent.
  • The EU has lost 7.2 percent of the global market since 1998. The U.S., the EU's principal competitor, increased its market share by 7 percent. The U.S. advantage is largely due to the rise in the number of high-value auctions in New York City.
  • The UK is the largest European art market, accounting for 56 percent of the total, with France the second largest at 16.8 percent. Germany came in at six percent.

European auction houses, according to the report, are a relatively low-price marketplace, whereas the UK is a mid-priced market and the U.S. is the market leader in fine art prices.

The report notes a pair of factors that it calls "impediments to future growth" in the European art market. The first is the failure of EU government agencies to consider the art market as a significant source of economic activity, particularly in the application of taxes (such as the VAT) and regulations (such as the droit de suite and heritage concerns), which increase "a widely held perception that Europe is a complicated, costly place to do business."

The increasingly global nature of the art market has led many European dealers to establish offices in New York in order to take advantage of "regulatory arbitrage," that is, taking taxes and regulatory strictures into account when deciding where to undertake business transactions.

The second factor is the lack of investment in technology, specifically, the kind of communication networks that can expedite market intelligence and other information. Dealers spend about one percent of total sales on technology for hardware, software and consultants combined -- far too little, the report says, when compared to other sectors of the knowledge business.

The International Asian Art Fair in New York, organized since 1996 by Anna and Brian Haughton, opens Mar. 22-26, 2002, in a large tent at Lincoln Center. The opening gala, slated for Mar. 21, benefits Asia Society; tickets begin at $125. The loan exhibition is "A Passion for Porcelain: Chinese Export Porcelain from the Khalil R. Rizk Collection." Exhibitors include John Eskenazi, Sam Fogg, Goedhuis Contemporary, Brian Harkins, Liza Hyde, Roger Keverne, Plum Blossoms, Priestley & Ferraro, Scholten Japanese Art, Frederick Schultz, A&J Speelman and Linda Wrigglesworth. General admission is $15.

Art fair organizers David and Lee Ann Lester, whose International Fine Art Expositions operates several high-end art fairs in Palm Beach, now plan to mount the New International Art & Antique Fair at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, Sept. 10-15, 2002. Approximately 200 dealers are expected, with wares including "20th and 21st-century work to attract younger collectors." Cost of a booth is in the $15,000-$60,000 range," according to a report in the Art Newspaper by Georgina Adam -- who also points out a minor difficulty: the fair occurs during the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center. "We will mark this in some way," Lester said.

The top lot in the Swann Auction Galleries sale of 100 photographs on Feb. 19 in New York was an untitled film still by Cindy Sherman from 1977 (subtitled Black Bra) -- and the artist and her dealers, Metro Pictures, say the 35 by 23 inch print is stolen. Though signed and numbered by the artist, the photo in question is an early, commercially made print that the artist later decided was defective and had reprinted by Kenneth Lieberman, who was Sherman's printer in the 1980s and '90s, and who, according to the artist, was instructed to destroy the original print. When alerted to the situation by the artist's dealer, Helene Winer of Metro Pictures, the auction house and its photo expert, Daile Kaplan, declined to pull the photo from the auction -- it was the sale's prize lot, after all -- telling Winer that "you provide no sustainable reason for us to withdraw the item from the sale." The work was hammered down for $65,000 (commission not included), though it remains unclear if the sale was completed. Auction-house documents indicate that the consignor was Lieberman, who told Swann that the photo was one of a number of prints given to him by Sherman as a gift. Sherman says she never gave Lieberman any artworks (and in fact stopped using his services because she was dissatisfied with them). Sherman now seeks a full accounting and money damages.

Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg has fired its head of Impressionist art, Howard Rutkowski, and is scrambling to find decent material for its spring Impressionist sale, slated for May 6, 2002, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Phillips sold a total of $86 million at its Impressionist and modern art sale last fall.