Why is it that while Europe is knee deep in economic turmoil that the art market is seemingly stronger than ever?
Why is art so disconnected from the wider economic situation brought on by the 2008 financial crisis?
Is it, as Les Echos journalist Pierre Gasquet believes, simply another speculative bubble bound to burst?
Or has art become a safe haven, like gold and other precious materials?
One factor contributing to the incredible prices being paid recently in the Art Market is the fact that several key pieces of art have come up for sale in quick succession.
Edvard Munch’s The Scream was the only one of four known versions of the work to be in private hands, and had been anticipated by the art market for decades.
Roy Lichtenstein’s Sleeping Girl caused a stir for similar reasons: a universally recognisable work that had been in a private collection for some 50 years. It went on to fetch nearly $45 million.
And although Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow is not as well known as the others – it too set a remarkable standard selling for an incredible $86.9 million at Christie’s in New York.
This succession of prestigious and highly valuable lots have attracted buyers from outside the Art Establishment – drawn to the prestigue of owning something completely unique.
This could explain why works by the likes of Pollock, Richter, and Calder, as well as less well known artists like Jack Goldstein and Joe Bradley, have seen their prices at auction dramatically increase recently.
Over the past five years wealthy buyers from south-east Asia and the monarchies in the Persian Gulf have been making their presence felt. The royal family of Qatar named itself as a potential buyer for The Scream, while the Chinese are becoming more and more interested in Western art, although they remain highly interested in their own.
Leaving aside for the moment the most recent results at auction, these new buyers constitute formidable competition, and have caused prices to increase on the market over the past four years.