Christie’s annual Swiss art auction in Zurich in September featured the likes of Felix Vallotton, Ferdinand Hodler, Giovanni Giacometti, and Albert Anker.
The auction ultimately drew approximately CHF 5.4 million. The evening appeared to reverse a recent downturn in the sale of Swiss art that has occurred over the last few years.
Swissinfo.ch reported that the auction attracted interest from clients in 20 countries, which is 50% more than the same auction held in 2017. The number of new registrants for the event increased twofold.
A number of the works were also sold for more than their estimated price. Albert Anker’s “Bildnis eines Mädchens” (1872) sold for CHF 40,000 more than expected when it sold for CHF 200,000. Anker is sometimes called the “Swiss national painter” for his depictions of Swiss rural life and the general accessibility of his work.
Olivier Mosset’s “Sim titulo (Faixas Azuis)” was purchased for CHF 87,500, which was twice its anticipated value. Mosset is a contemporary Swiss artist who currently lives in Tuscon, Arizona. He is considered by some to be a rising commodity in contemporary art, and this particular sale points to that.
The Impressionist and Modern Art specialist at Christie’s Zurich location, Hans-Peter Keller, speaking to Swissinfo.ch, mentioned that demand for contemporary works was high at this particular auction, noting “sooner or later the offer of traditional pieces will diminish considerably.”
The contemporary art market appeared to have been booming over the past year, and over the past couple decades. Artprice, in its report on the contemporary art market from June 2017 until July 2018, a +19% global turnover in contemporary art sales and a +18% increase in the price index.
Combined with an average annual financial return of about 8.1% on contemporary works, the market has appeared to be a strong investment choice. No wonder the Mosset sold for twice its anticipated value.
Despite the apparent boom in the contemporary art market, there is some concern that the overall market may be ready to cool off. Despite a 27% in contemporary auction sales, buyer confidence in the market has dropped 24%, as reported by ArtTactic. This may be an effect of tension and concern generated by the Trump administration’s intensifying trade war with China as well as uncertainty over the ramifications of Brexit next spring. Those numbers, combined with global uncertainty, may precipitate the contemporary art market’s cooling off.
In terms of Swiss art, we will know sooner rather than later whether a slowdown in the contemporary art market is on its way. Sotheby’s runs its second Swiss art auction of 2018 in December, which should help shed light onto the state of the market and what can be expected in 2019.