Soaring Prices in Europe’s Contemporary Fine Art Market
The South African fine art community of collectors and investors may be a distant hemisphere away from the elite of Europe’s summer worldwide tour that began in Venice Biennale this year. However, analysts predict that the steady upward curve in the world’s fine art market that began in 2002 will continue to push prices through the roof. One of Europe most elite social scenes began their quest from Venice, where fleets of private jets took collectors to the Basel Art exhibitions, following onto Documenta in Kassel and finishing their pursuit by raiding Sothebys in London.
Sale of contemporary art works reached unprecedented heights at auction. The event saw Francis Bacon’s self portrait sell for a record $40m, twice its reserve price. Later Claude Monet’s Nympheas went for a staggering $37m and one of the artist’s Waterloo Bridge paintings which was expected to sale at auction for $14m fetched an astounding $34m.
Upward market trends in the southern hemisphere?
The intensifying upward trend in the world’s fine art market has also been felt in the now not so distant southern hemisphere. Australia’s contemporary art market which is considered comparable with South Africa’s has also seen record sales at public exhibitions and auction events. Fine art works by modern Australian artists are snapped up for around $3.5m, whereas the highest price fetched by a South African Artist is around $1m. That was for JH Pierneef’s Dar es Salaam that changed hands at Bernardi’s sale in Pretoria. However experts predict that there is no reason why South African Artists can’t sell their fine artwork for comparable prices.
South Africa’s Masters have topped records in domestic SA auctions
Some of South Africa’s Masters have topped records in domestic SA auctions. An oil by Maggie Laubser, Sailing Boat on Lake Guarda, signed and dated 1921, sold for R220,000 (USD31,000), topping values for her works of that period. The highest price at the Fine Arts Auction was paid for a Sekoto, Home Coming, signed and dated 1974, which was knocked down for R820,000 (USD117,000). This was followed by the R680,000 (USD97,000) paid for an oil by Laubser, The Slopes of Table Mountain verso Portrait of a Hiker. An oil by George Pemba, Musicians, signed and dated 1990, sold for R200,000 (USD28,000), and an oil by JEA Volschenk, The Giants of the Zwaartberg Range, signed and dated 1920, attained a hammer price of R125,000 (USD18,000). More was paid for oil by Adriaan Boshoff, Cattle and Herdboy, which fetched R300,000 (USD43,000).
A director of the auction house says “Art market trends tend to follow the property market which is currently very buoyant. The public have the resources and more wealth, and hence more money is available for investment in art, which has shown better returns than the stock exchange in the past three years”
Contemporary South African Fine Artworks Gain International Respect
South Africans’ cultural heritage and art has gained international respect recently because of recognition received by artists like Zwelethu Mthethwa, William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas. Galleries and museums have developed a distinct, strongly-growing market locally and around the world. Northern Europeans often are surprised when they find out that the bright colour abstract paintings were created by an African artist. In general art collectors and gallery owners still associate African art with wooden statues and masks. Few people appreciate that African artists finish art school and have a growing impact and are represented throughout the international art circuit. An interesting observation is that prices for Aboriginal art are rising steeply, as is the case for works by black artists in South Africa.