Economics Auctions Germany

Porcelain sales unharmed by economic crisis

Shortage of pieces keeps demand high

munich. Some sectors of the art market have been largely unaffected by the economic downturn, delegates were told at the annual conference of Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d’Art (Cinoa) held in Munich from 25-27 June.

According to Friedel Kirsch of the Elfriede Langeloh gallery in Weinheim, who specialises in early German porcelain: “Certain areas of collection are reacting in quite a different way to the economic crisis. Demand for 18th-century German porcelain, especially Meissen, remains unchanged.” Kirsch adds: “In fact, prices for finest-quality porcelain have been increasing for years and have risen even faster since the beginning of the recession. We have seen this happen with tableware, figurines and groups.”

Herbert van Mierlo, director and expert in works of art, furniture and porcelain at Sotheby’s in London, explains: “The market is dominated by a relatively small group of specialised, devoted collectors looking for exquisite pieces. Because of this, the market for porcelain has remained practically immune from the negative effects of the financial crisis, especially in comparison to the general art market.” According to Van Mierlo, “the price tendency for good porcelain is clearly upward as long as the collectors remain eager. The big and difficult challenge for the auction houses is to find the right pieces.” His view is shared by Rodney Woolley of Christie’s in London where, on 2 June 2009, bidding rose to £121,250 for a small gold-mounted Meissen snuff box dating from 1738, decorated on the inside with a delicately painted scene inspired by Watteau.

Russian collectors, who mainly buy figurines and groups, are among Elfriede Langeloh’s most important clients, says Kirsch. And although the porcelain market is doing very well in terms of sales, there is still a problem with what Kirsch calls “the crippling shortage of goods”. She adds: “All dealers are finding it increasingly difficult and expensive to buy porcelain, which is becoming rarer while demand continues to rise. You can’t simply reprint porcelain in the same way as money. Auction rooms have become like battlefields.”

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