by Nancy Nesvet
With high state and local real estate tax deductions limited, stocks deliriously high and bank interest rates way low, art is the way to go, and many buyers are jumping at the opportunities out there. Last month’s sales at Art Basel Miami 2017 bore out my prediction that older art on the secondary market would allow buyers to pick up great deals. A large supply of renowned artists’ work was available to purchase. The supply in the United States might get even larger now that like-kind exchanges of real property has been amended (Sec 13303 of the Tax Reform Act) to exclude property and only include real property. That excludes trading in artworks for other artwork, and encourages its owners to sell.
On the world market, the gems are in short supply; the Da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, Basquiat’s Untitled, Munch’s, “Scream” and De Kooning’s “Interchange” all sold at record high prices in 2017. At Art Basel Miami 2017, Mark Bradford’s political/historical paintings and collages, claimed top price, for Moon Rocks at $5M, while his Fly in the Buttermilk sold for $3M, both at Hauser and Wirth.
David Hockney, painting upper middle-class suburbs and its inhabitants, is wildly popular with retrospective shows at London’s Tate Britain and the Met in New York. I believe the buying public wants to know the artist and the artist’s world. It is not surprising that Edward Munch’s Scream sold last year at a then record 74 million pounds sterling, ($119 million+) or that its value was upped by Munch’s handwritten poem describing his feelings, unique to this version.
Collectors and institutions worldwide are buying major artists’ work. Mark Bradford’s work is important, beautifully made and thoughtfully expressed, shown in museums that inform the public. He was the U.S. representative at the Venice Biennale 2017 and has a solo show at the Hirschhorn. His We the People, 32 10-foot long panels depicting the entire U.S. constitution, was commissioned by the Art in Embassies Program for the new U.S. embassy in London. Earlier, in May 2017, Basquiat’s Untitled set a record selling at $110.5 million. The present record setter at $450 million, Salvator Mundi, is one of only 20 paintings by the most major artist, Leonardo Da Vinci.
Big name shows in late 2017, including Yayoi Kusama’s sold-out Infinity Nets at Washington D.C.’s Hirschhorn and Los Angeles’s Broad Museum, produced massive revenue from admission and new member fees. The Met (New York) has instituted a compulsory admission charge for non-New Yorkers, probably seeing the lines of out of town visitors winding around the block to see its current David Hockney show. Last week, Glenn Lowry, director at MOMA (New York,) called for museums to de-accession, putting the money gained toward endowments, programming and publishing. Programming just might include big name-brand shows.
There are new art fairs and biennales coming this year. New museums are being funded. The market is there. Older work is selling and new, quality work is being produced and funded, privately, institutionally and governmentally. The art market is good for collectors and artists with prices for the best work rising. The art market will survive and thrive.