The current peak season of auctions at the art market has brought a few recognitions to which participant’s expectations need to be readjusted to be financially successful. Experts and art appraisals analyze the year’s new outcomes within a broader view and this analysis serves the basis upon which the next year tendencies could be anticipated.
2010 was greatly affected by the economic recession, similarly to earlier years. Comparisons of sales figures, however, tell something about how the crisis has affected the contemporary art scenery. In the last two years, even the returns of those auction houses – that are acknowledged worldwide and have expanded networks, such as Christie’s and Sotheby or the Phillips de Pury&Company that specializes in contemporary art – has steeply decreased. Fortunately, at a closer look, the whole picture is not that gloomy, though discouraging. The reassuring sign is that investors are adapting fast enough to the new economic climate and in the crisis, new investor responses and demands evolved which are, in turn, rapidly followed by new sales strategies. The clients’ interest has grown toward the less sumptuous but more enduring art object. In art trade, the works of such legendary names that Damien Hirst, or the street-artist Banksy, or Takashi Murakami who had his last exhibition in Versailles, had been exchanged, sold and bought for soaring prices.
Today, their names’ prestige have been faded and at the auctions, their art objects belong to the less desired items. At the same time, prices are up for the works of the classic contemporary masters like Yves Klein, Jackson Pollock and Lucien Freud. In fine art, preferences are clearly changing. Instead of costly paintings, photos, drawings and intermedial arts are in the foreground of attention now. In the Anglo-Saxon territory, economic climate is stagnating while the eastern art treasury and mainly the Chinese has been developing so dynamically that by now, on the international scene, it is the second most important place. The world economic crisis has accelerated this process and the center of contemporary market more and more conspicuously shifts to the East.
Two art fairs
In November, two art fairs were dedicated to the contemporary art in Hungary: Art Fair that has already a decadelong tradition and the newly organized Art Market that was called into life within two months. The predecessor of the ‘alternative fair’ was the one in Mûcsarnok (Art Hall) that monopolized the market. Galleries that exhibited there demanded some changes from the organizers by which they wanted to raise the standard of the event.
Thirteen galleries presented their supply in the ground floor of almost 3,000 sq m at Krisztina Palace in Budapest. Those exhibition rooms that were set up in the last few years have their own distinctive profiles and their names are already intertwined with certain degree of international success, such as Viltin, G13, NextArt, Friss Galéria were also present at this fair. As were old timers in art treasures, such as MissionArt that has a mixed profile, or the Ráday – Faur Zsófi Galéria, whose brainchild the fair was. Exhibitors were impressed by the symbolic leasing prices and art lovers enjoyed free entry due to corporate sponsorship. According to the organizers, the Art Market is a success and speak about 2,500 visitors and almost every one of the exhibiting galleries closed the event with better returns than originally expected. On average, two-three works of art were sold by every gallery, many contemporary works of art costing HUF several millions. If it is taken into account that the art fair was organized for the first time and the main purpose was to introduce domestic contemporary art to the wilder public, then, this trade success cannot be appreciated enough. The patrons of the events were Dr. Soraya von Stubenberg, one of the most acknowledged international experts of the domestic landscape and Eastern-Europe art treasure market and the mayor of Budapest’s District 12, Zoltán Pokorni.
Less visitors but up to grade
The Art Market, and especially its timing stirred some disagreements between the key figures in Hungarian art trade. Gallery owners exhibiting in Mûcsarnok do not believe it is a good idea to have two fairs within such a short period of time, and no one among the foreign curators and collectors could be expected to visit a somewhat peripheral Budapest twice within two weeks. In the Art Fair, thirty Hungarian and foreign galleries exhibited Art Nouveau and contemporary works of art. Some of them (Viltin, G13) appeared at the Art Market, too, but the majority could not and did not intend to take part in two art fairs. Foreign presence increased and a new participant presented his work, the Janos Gat Gallery from New York and the museum of contemporary art in San Francisco (SFMOMA), within the frames of Heroes Corner project that presented more than twenty outstanding Eastern-European Art Nouveau and contemporary art objects. Only future could tell that the Hungarian art collectors scenery and the sponsors who support such events could remain responsive in the long run and give strong financial backing to two art fairs that are both focusing on contemporary fine art.