Auction Round-Up: Record Sales At Christie's, Warhol Records And The Market Booms

As stories of sovereign debt crises abound, it is the art market that's unexpectedly--and undeniably--booming. In the first half of this year alone, Christie's sold $3.2 billion dollars worth of art, an amount which an executive told Reuters would break the 2010 record.

This may not mean, however, that the world is embracing the arts more strongly than before. In fact, works of art by famous artists represent long-term investments that may prove safer than other, more traditional financial instruments. "The push," according to an article in the Guardian, "is driven by growing numbers of wealthy Asian buyers and investors who want to hedge against financial uncertainty and currency volatility."

Christie's C.E.O Steven P. Murphy said, on the contrary, that "while a small percentage of clients buys for investment, we’re seeing a general cultural shift toward art." Murphy also said that "the contemporary market has returned. It’s done so for a wide range of names."

It is feared, however, that the multiple debt crises will soon mean that the risk of buying art will outweigh its benefits. A survey published by ArtTactic shows that though confidence in art has risen, the risk has as well. According to the survey, "there are strong similarities between today's situation and the situation that faced the art market in 2007 and 2008."

The president of Christie's Europe, Jussi Pylkkanen, commented on the upturn in the market, saying: "there is a good chance of breaking that record this year [...] every indicator in the art market tells us that there is the appetite to buy and sell at Christie's. It must give us a very, very good chance."

Art purchases increased across a wide range of price. On the one hand, there was the Andy Warhol painting in a Pop Art sale on the online auction website artnet that set a new record for online auctions at $1,322,500. On the other, lots between 500,000 and 1 million pounds were high in demand across the board, and sold at an average rate of more than 90 percent.

Director of artnet, Robin Roche, told the Huffington Post, "This is a major milestone for not just the art world, but e-commerce in general. It signals that transactions involving high value artworks can now be handled entirely online."

Roche also commented on the state of the art market, remarking,

"The art market is definitely heading back to pre-recession levels, particularly the auction world. During the depths of the recession, it was hard for dealers to get clients to “pull the trigger”. But with auctions you can’t delay, or else you will lose the opportunity to get the work. That’s why the auctions recovered first, but galleries are noticing an upturn as well, too."