Based on preliminary results from the ArtTactic US & European Confidence Survey (expert) this month, I have outlined some broad trends and forecasts for 2015.

When will the bears start catching up with the bulls?
The recent survey readings show that art market experts are less positive about the 6-month outlook for the US & European contemporary art market, which could signal that the market is about to hit a ceiling. The majority, 65% of the experts believe the contemporary art market sales trend will be flat this year, although 35% believe the market has further upside potential. So far, no one expects an art market correction within the first half of 2015, which might come as a relief.

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Weaker economic growth is the biggest risk to the art market this year, although the wealthy is not likely to stop buying art anytime soon:
Stagnant growth in Europe and increasing political risk have had a dampening effect on experts' confidence in the economy, which has dropped 23% in the last 6 months. Although weaker economic growth might lead to slower art sales in the mid- to lower price segments, the ultra-wealthy is expected to continue their trophy hunting at the top end of the market. This is supported by the fact that 73% of the experts are positive to the $1 million + segment. The higher end of the middle-market could rejuvenate as buyers are picking lower-hanging fruits in hope that these markets will be promoted to the millionaire league. Expect another year with new auction records.

Emerging art markets could bounce back, although the Russian art market is likely to struggle:
Latin American auction sales ended 2014 with the second highest sale since 2008, after struggling to gain traction in the last 5 years. Another victim of the 2009 art market collapse was the Indian art market, but auction sales in the last two years are showing positive signs of a broad based recovery. The Russian art market, however, ran into serious problems before Christmas last year. Falling Russian ruble and western sanctions have taken its toll on the market, and 82% of the polled experts believe the Russian art market will go down further this year.

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Winner's curse?
Christie's sales leapfrogged Sotheby's in 2014 (although profitability might not). The traditional equilibrium between the auction houses' market share was shattered last year and the damage could take some time to heal. 78% of the ArtTactic forecasters believe Christie's will continue their lead in 2015. However, the recent CEO changes at Christie's could signal that the market share grabbing could have come at a high price. We expect the gap between the two auction houses to narrow in 2015.

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Artist bubbles:
Art 'flipping' and speculation became the buzz words in 2014. Young artists are propelled through a new art market machine, boosted by hype and social media, a strategy which seem to have shortend the artists' journey to the auction market by approximately 10 years. However, already many of these artist markets are showing signs of running out of steam and are putting the longevity of their career at risk. However, triple-digit returns are seductive, which means that the game is unlikely to stop anytime soon.

However, as one of the surveyed expert said: "some parts of the art market has become a fantasy, an Alice Wonderland, and everyone seems to be falling down the rabbit hole." I guess the question is, when will they wake up and realise?

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