Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=186935
Story Retrieval Date: 5/24/2013 9:56:50 PM CST
Wealthy spenders are looking to art as a relatively safe place to invest contributing to record prices set at spring art and design auctions.
“There is a commodity aspect to strength of sales,” said Richard Wright, president of Wright Auction, a Chicago-based auction house specializing in modern design. “After the market disruption of 2008, blue chip pieces are where people want to put their money.”
Pent-up demand has led to strong sales early in the auction season. A pair of teak and leather armchairs from the a palace in Chandigarh, India, by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret sold for $104,500 at a recent Wright auction, more than seven times the pre-auction estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.
Leslie Hindman, president and CEO of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, noted the demand for 19th century American and European paintings has not been as strong as it was before. Buyers are looking for contemporary and modern works from “established artists that are not particularly risky,” Hindman said.
The Chicago-based auction house’s May sale of contemporary, modern American and European art set a record grossing more than $2.7 million. “Orange and Blue Upright,” a painting by Sir Terry Frost, sold for $67,100, compared with a pre-sale estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
Wealthy spenders outside of the U.S. positively affected spring sales. Buyers from emerging markets such as China, Russia and Brazil are spending, auctioneers said. Nearly 80 percent of the items in Hindman’s May 3 Asian works auction sold to foreign buyers. The auction was expected to gross $1 million; at final tally, the auction racked up close to $4.5 million.
“We view our market as being completely global,” Hindman said.
Chicago-area auction houses are benefiting from the increasingly wired global network. The power of the Internet has made buyers are more confident conducting purchases online. That has benefitted small and regional auction houses because buyers no longer need to travel to art capitals such as New York to find the best works.
Both Hindman and Wright are confident the robust results will continue into the June auctions . Although Wright acknowledges auctioneers have only limited power over the results.
“You just ultimately can’t control the market response,” Wright said. “You do the best you can to put the best material out there.”