A summary of last week’s art news, minus the Met’s Rose Period Picasso fiasco, because that’s hardly news at this point…
Demand and short supply prevailed at the Sotheby’s and Christie’s old masters sales this week. The $109 million that changed hands at Christie’s set a new record for a single old masters auction and established new price highs for the artists Rembrandt, Raphael and Domenichino. Sotheby’s old master’s sales totaled $74 million, well situated in the pre-sale estimate of $54-75 million. Sotheby’s most buzzed items included “Portrait of a Woman, Called ‘La Belle Ferronniere,’ ” once thought to be authored by Leonardo da Vinci. It sold for $1.5 million—triple the $500,000 estimate.
These outcomes support the prediction that high quality conservative art will fare better during a recession. The old masters, the impressionists and the modernists are an inflation hedge, while acquisitions by recent superstars have become risky investments.
In a survey of 25 museums, The Art Newspaper notes that endowments are recovering, and the Met reports that its income is at pre-recession levels. But California closings (Claremont Museum of Art and the Fresno Metropolitan Museum) and cautionary moves, such as the Los Angeles County Museum sending 17 pieces through Sotheby’s last week, indicate that institutional art budgets remain shaky.
All is not lost in our most leveraged state. On Wednesday the Getty Foundation announced that it will award $3.1 million in grants to 26 California institutions to help fund next fall’s bevy of exhibits, “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980.” This gift doubles the previously announced commitment. Continue reading