Art houses sure market turmoil won't derail sales

Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:58pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Leading auction houses are confident that financial market turmoil will not derail their largest ever European sales next month, despite early signs that wealthy buyers are losing confidence in the booming sector.

Christie's and Sotheby's hold major auctions in February of Impressionist/Modern and Post-War/Contemporary work, offering early clues as to whether stock market sell-offs, a weak dollar and fears of a U.S. recession will hit demand.

So far the spectacular rise in the value of paintings in recent years, particularly post-war and contemporary art, has defied doomsayers who predicted long ago the bubble would burst.

"It's naive to say that volatility in the stock markets is bad news for the art market," said Simon Shaw, senior director of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's, recalling that earlier equities falls did not always lead to lower art prices.

"Historically when stock markets are in trouble it is good news for the art market," he told Reuters at a preview of works going under the hammer in London next month, including a Francis Bacon estimated at over 18 million pounds ($36 million).

Others agree. Art collector and investor Jeffrey Gundlach recently noted that record prices for Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol were not down to "some guy on Wall Street that happened to get a good bonus."

But Shaw conceded buyers would be affected by an increasingly cloudy economic outlook.

"In certain cases, people whose revenue stream is weakened by stocks, or whose state of mind is affected, are less inclined to be active," he said.   Continued...

<p>A painting by Alexej von Jawlensky entitled "Schokko (Schokko mit Tellerhut)" is seen at Sotheby's auctioneers, ahead of their February Impressionist and Modern Art sale in London, January 29, 2008. REUTERS/Stephen Hird</p>