New art buyers fire up the top end

Source:- The Economic Times
LONDON: If proof were needed that the international art market has become a playground for the super-rich, it was delivered by record-breaking auctions in London this week. Just over £40 million ($80 million) for a Monet water lily painting, a record-smashing £15 million for Italian futurist Gino Severini, four million for a Henry Moore sculpture and 5.5 million for a work by fashionable Russian modernist Natalia. Goncharova were among the highlights of the annual impressionist and modern art auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Total results exceeded previous records, as buyers spent £144 million at Christie’s – the highest in a European art sale – while Sotheby’s evening sale made £102 million. Art experts say the results underline the fact that the super-rich are immune from the credit crunch, and that, more significantly, the middle-tier buyer who would spend up to a million pounds on a work of art, is cut out of the market. The trend would eventually have a negative impact on the buying power of galleries and museums, analysts said. Wealthy buyers, who regarded museum-quality art as an asset to investment portfolios, were also increasingly bypassing agents, appointing their personally-chosen experts to make the purchase, analysts noted. Charles Dupplin, art expert at the specialist insurer Hiscox, believes there is a tale of two markets, with buoyancy at the top and evidence of a slowing in the middle market. The market was "beginning to see signs of a pause" in the middle tier - the sort of buyer who had probably made his money from financial services and was ready to spend from 200,000 to one million pounds on a work of art, he told the Guardian. The influx of new buyers is generally seen as being behind the growing strength at the top end of the market. Bidding this week was dominated by hedge fund owners, Russian billionaires, Chinese industrialists, Indian entrepreneurs and Middle Eastern sheikhs, reports said.
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