Traditional Art in an Economic Downturn

There were signs this week that the commodity value of traditional art may be adversely affected by the struggling economy. That’s what the early indicators show, even though a bronze version of Edgar Degas’ sculpture “Little Dancer” (Petite danseuse de quatorze ans) sold at Sotheby’s in London on Tuesday night for a record £13.3 million ($19.2 million). The three-foot high bronze sculpture was one in an edition of 28 casts made in 1922, four years after the death of the artist. It is one of 10 left in private ownership.

But the news from Christie’s Impressionist/Modern Art auction in London Wednesday was not as bright. “Dans La Prairie,” an oil painting by Claude Monet, sold for £11,241,250 ($16,018,781). Forbes.com reported that the painting was projected to sell for £50 million ($72.4 million). The auction house had estimated the projected sale price at £15 million.

The auction brought in a total of £63.4 million ($91.6 million), which was higher than the revised forecast of £58.8 million ($83.7 million). Even if many of the sales figures are lower than prices paid in the recent past, in general traditional art is holding its market appeal better than contemporary art.

“In the last six months, we have seen how contemporary artists … have been struggling to find a buyer.” auctioneer Ted Owen told Forbes. “People are now looking for more traditional type of art like the impressionists or earlier forms of art, which will always maintain their value.”

See Also:
Degas Sculpture Makes Record in First Art-Market Test of 2009 (Bloomberg.com; February 4, 2009)
Monet, Modigliani, Low Estimates Boost Christie’s London Sale (Bloomberg.com; February 4, 2009)
In The Name Of Art (Forbes.com; February 4, 2009)

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