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Frieze London 2018

Contemporary art market cools as confidence drops

Brexit and Trump's trade war with China are affecting the mood of buyers

Despite a 27% rise in auction sales in the first half of 2018, buyer confidence has fallen by almost a quarter Christie's Images Ltd

Is the contemporary art market cooling off? In the first six months of this year, buyer confidence in the contemporary art market has dropped by 24%, despite a 27% increase in contemporary auction sales, finds a new report from the analysis firm ArtTactic. The report suggests this drop is a reflection of broader concerns over economic and political uncertainty—Brexit and President Trump’s trade war with China are cited as major factors—and of fears that the current art market boom is unsustainable.

The trend seems to have rippled out to the fair. Speaking on The Art Newspaper podcast this week, editor-at-large Melanie Gerlis, said she felt “those big, gazillions of dollars, flying-off-the-booth sales on the first day don’t seem to have happened this year at Frieze London.”

Meanwhile at Christie’s, a painting by Gerhard Richter (est £12m-£18m) and sculpture by Jeff Koons (est £10m-£15m) failed to sell at the post-war and contemporary art evening sale on Thursday night.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper after the sale, the US-based art advisor Lisa Schiff said: “I think it’s a good thing for the market to adjust a bit—the art market doesn’t just go up. But, in general, I think it’s really healthy at the moment.”

At Frieze, Schiff did “a lot of business”. Works she bought for her clients included Alice Neel’s portrait of Harold Dyke (1971) which had an asking price of around $800,000 (plus VAT) with Galerie Xavier Hufkens and Alex Katz’s Coca-Cola Girl 12 (2018) from Galerie Thaddeus Ropac.

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