Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Art sales records shattered with global rise of billionaires by Michael Pizzi

(source here) A new class of art connoisseurs from the developing world is taking the global art market by storm, phoning in bids to Christie’s and Sotheby’s and shipping works out to every corner of the globe.

This past week auction houses held their largest sales of all time. To great fanfare, Christie’s sold Francis Bacon’s "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," a triptych depicting the late artist’s close friend from different angles, for a record $142.4 million.

In the same sale, the New York-based auction house set the record for the most expensive work by a living artist when it sold Jeff Koons’ giant steel sculpture, Balloon Dog (Orange) to an anonymous telephone bidder for $58.4 million.

Art market analysts attribute this last week’s sky-high price tags to the emergence of this new class of super-wealthy art collectors from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America who are looking to invest their excess capital in the most collectable — and enjoyable — speculative commodity: art.

"It's not a function of art being better than it was. It’s a function of extreme amounts of excess capital combined with cheap money," much of it coming from emerging economies like China, Qatar, Brazil and India, said Todd Levin, an art adviser and the director of Levin Art Group.

"The bottom line is there's an extreme amount of wealth aggregated in the hands of a small number of individuals, and they have to find a place to put it," he said.

The world has emerged from a global financial crisis with more billionaires than ever in 2013, according to the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire census released last week, which counted 2,170 billionaires globally.

With more billionaires on every continent, and Asia on pace to outstrip North America and Europe in that department within five years, the days of American financiers dominating elite art sales are long gone.

Wealthy collectors from emerging economies, boosted in recent years by booming commodities prices, are taking center stage at auction houses from New York to Shanghai.

“This was our absolute record sale,” said Miety Heiden, head of contemporary private sales for Sotheby’s, who spoke to Al Jazeera just moments after another night of bidding came to a close. “We saw bidding from all over the world, and a lot of new collectors.”

Auction houses are courting these super-wealthy patrons, and it’s paying off in record sums. Christie’s, which makes an effort to tour big ticket works around the world to tempt potential bidders, netted $691 million from its Tuesday night postwar and contemporary art sale, the largest sale by auction of all time.

“It used to be very much an American and European marketplace, but it’s growing more and more global every day,” said Amy Cappellazzo, a chairman of postwar and contemporary art for Christie’s.

Christie's registered bidders from 42 countries for its blockbuster Tuesday sale.

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