Art market

The media fail to cover the bulk of art market transactions

This was one of the conclusions reached during the panel discussion Informing the Art World, held at the Tefaf Art Symposium in Maastricht on 11 March

Indeed, the headline, eight- and nine-figure sales at major auction houses seem to suck most of the media oxygen. The effect is compounded by the sheer number of press releases, newsletters and notices that land in journalists’ in-boxes on a daily basis. The ability to assess what is truly important when every forthcoming sale is marked “important” has become increasingly necessary.

To this end, we have expanded our monthly pick of objects for sale, which is now a two-page spread of items that may not be high profile, but are “important”, in our view. The selection of objects deliberately avoids the high-octane contemporary market.

The most recent item chosen is a 1934 watercolour by the British artist Eric Ravilious, whose Dulwich Picture Gallery retrospective last year marked his growing reassessment as an artist. The work is being sold by a regional auction house—Sworders in Essex—and many of the other pieces are being sold by lesser-covered auctioneers and dealers (through specialist art fairs) around the world. Values start at £6,000 and rarely go beyond five-figures, representing the highest volume area of the so-called art market.

There are some more obviously bigger hitters too—such as an El Greco oil at Christie’s Old Masters auction in New York, estimated at $5m. Just because a work is pricey doesn’t make it uninteresting. But its interest lies beyond the increasingly universal language of money, something that most of the art market’s participants already appreciate.