STANSTED MOUNTFITCHE.- Politically, 2016 has been one of the most dramatic years of recent times, as it has also been for the art market. This follows on from a long period of increasing globalisation, largely thanks to the internet, with art market prices often outstripping other forms of investment. The more art has been seen as an alternative asset, the more scrutiny it has attracted from law enforcement and governments, especially those who believe there is a risk that the unscrupulous will use art to further their illegal aims, whether in the pursuit of money laundering, terrorism or the drugs trade.
Fortunately, in many ways the market is thriving more than ever before, and it remains one of the most exciting and rewarding fields in which to operate. Unfortunately, plenty of people, many of them with little or no understanding of the art market and what it has to offer, are out to spoil the party because they feel that it should be controlled more centrally.
All of this means that the challenges and potential rewards are greater than ever; in such circumstances, people tend to become more innovative and inventive.
With all this in mind, here is what I think might happen in 2017.
Modern British Art. My first pick of 2016 remains my first pick of 2017. This time last year I predicted rising fortunes in 2016 for the likes of John Nash, Cedric Morris and Kenneth Rowntree. Morris saw major auction records set and his star continues to rise, while the others also did well. Depending on the availability of works, in 2017 I think we will see Morris pursued to greater heights, and I would also keep an eye on Christopher Wood, who shot to prominence in 2016 and whose catalogue raisonnee is in the offing. John Nash, John Aldridge of the Great Bardfield artists, who is already on the rise, and again if works become available Paul Nash, Peter Schmidt, William Roberts and Evelyn Dunbar, are all in my sights.
Luxury accessories. Auction houses and dealers are giving these much more attention, and we have found that our specialist sales attract a new and younger audience. Who wouldnt want a part of that?
Innovative partnerships. Increasing competition and challenges mean that we all have to be more innovative in our marketing, business models and routes to market. Auctioneers have become dealers and dealers often now stage auctions. The barriers are beginning to come down. We have to do business with the right people to ensure our consignors enjoy the best return on investing their trust in us. Part of that has to be tapping into new buyers, who may not always be found in traditional market places. We have road-tested a number of such initiatives and seen others do the same, to great effect. Expect more of this.
Increasing self-regulation. Antiquities, ivory, Asian art and transparency have all been the focus of debate and lawmakers in the past year. New laws in the US, UK and Germany all came into force or are on their way, as are proposals for tighter import and export restrictions across EU states. The penalties for wrongdoing are also getting tougher. Its in everyones interests for industry professionals to police themselves more visibly. Look at what Sothebys has just done in acquiring its own forensic art unit to weed out forgeries. The better we are at keeping our own houses clean, the less the authorities are likely to interfere and the more we will boost confidence in the public.
JFK and the Soviets. Amazingly, both turn 100 in 2017. The much-mourned assassinated US president is such an icon that I would be surprised if there were no dedicated sales of memorabilia, which together with all the media coverage should boost interest among younger generations of collectors. Likewise, despite the 1989 demise of the Soviet experiment, it left behind a rich tradition of propaganda in the form of posters and other collectables.
Online bidding. Pressure on costs and margins means that auction houses are looking for new solutions, while it cant be long before something dramatic happens among those platforms jockeying for position. Dont be surprised to find one or other of the big boys snapping up a rival
Im not naming names though.
Cuba. The art is fabulous, the style magnificent. If domestic pressure for better standards of living starts to build, as I anticipate it will, it should create all sorts of new opportunities for trade and building friendships. There is a vast wealth of treasures waiting to be uncovered, from textiles to traditional collectables. Id like to think that if we get a better chance to trade in them, we would keep in mind that this should be of as much benefit to the Cuban people as to us in creating a potentially booming new market.
Great expertise, great service, great delivery. I said it last year, and Ill say it again. Any serious player who wants to survive and prosper in this highly competitive market will be primarily focused on this holy trinity. Some things never change.