After years of growth, a long way to fall?
By Melanie Gerlis. Market, Issue 196, November 2008
Published online: 05 November 2008
This graph shows the growth of prices for contemporary art at auction from 1984 to the end of September 2008. The fastest growth has been in the top quarter of the market, where the average price is up from $20,000 to $660,000 (or 3,100%), having diverged from the rest of the market in 1997 and at its most extreme since January 2007.
According to Robin Duthy of Art Market Research, this is even more marked for the top 10%, where the average price is up from $43,000 to $2m (a gain of nearly 4,400%) since 1984.
The rest of the contemporary market has not been doing too badly: prices for the central 50% of works are up from $6,000 to $76,000 (1,100%), and at the lower end from $1,000 to $17,000 (600%). In the same period, the UK’s retail price index and the US consumer price index (traditional measures of inflation) are up a mere 130% and 120% respectively.
Predictions during the economic slowdown range from the theory that top-priced art is the most stable in difficult times to the precise opposite—that the bigger the bubble, the more likely it is to burst.
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