Art Market

The Artsy Advisor Notebook: April 2023

Artsy Editorial
Apr 6, 2023 6:34PM

In this monthly series, we gather thoughts and highlights from Artsy’s in-house art experts on what they’re seeing, looking forward to, and enjoying in the art world this month.

What We’re Noticing

Boom time at Art Basel in Hong Kong

Interior view of Art Basel in Hong Kong 2023. Courtesy of Art Basel.

At Art Basel in Hong Kong, a recession seemed like a distant rumor. “Did you go to Singapore?” “Will I see you in Tokyo?” These were some of the questions I overheard as many dealers closed with strong sales and new buyers on their contact lists. One could not deny the prominence of Mandarin spoken on the show floor. While most collectors from the U.S. and Europe chose not to take the lengthy flight, new and ready-to-spend collectors from Asia—and in particular from China—had come to play.

And play they did. Celebrity turnout was well represented as with other Art Basel fairs, with the likes of Pharrell Williams and Takashi Murakami spotted at events and fair booths throughout the week.

Hong Kong is the dominant location of regional wealth, and a spending fever was present not only at the fair, but also at several extravagant parties. The event calendar was more packed than in previous years, with hosts as ready to throw down as the collectors who attended them.

Hong Kong’s business success has always been founded on its free ports and advantageous tax system. When coupled with a hungry regional collector base, it generates the perfect art fair storm we saw last month.

In Asia, perhaps more than in other continents, the history and culture of collectors vary vastly between countries only short distances apart. Art Basel owner MCH Group has made efforts to share its focus across the APAC region by supporting alternative events, such as Art Week Tokyo, and investments (MCH is a shareholder of Art SG in Singapore, which held its first edition in January).

These moves confirm that the art fair business is evolving to a new stage: one where, in addition to mass brands such as Art Basel, a hometown strategy is needed to further the development of collecting and acquisition across the region.

With more fairs launching in an already saturated APAC market (Art SG and Tokyo Gendai planted new flags in Singapore and Japan, respectively, this year), the race is on for the leader of the pack as galleries now have a roster of regional fairs to choose from.

All bets are on Hong Kong, however. The mood as it closed out its 2023 art week was one of reinvigorated confidence.

Jenn Pratt, Associate Director, Fair Partnerships, Los Angeles

Quality, not quantity

Andy Warhol
Self Portrait, 1978-1979
David Hockney
Life, 2012
Larsen Gallery

According to Art Basel and UBS’s recent “The Art Market 2023” report, global art sales have hit their highest level since 2014, generating an estimated $67.8 billion.

However, this figure comes against a climate of top-heavy performance at higher price points.

A recent Sotheby’s and ArtTactic report found that works above $1 million represented 4% of lots sold by Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s between 2018 and 2022, but accounted for an overwhelming 74% of total sales value.

Clearly, the market for $1 million–plus works has shown tremendous strength during a four-year period of economic headwinds and momentous global events.

This shows that demand is still strong at the very top of the market, supported by buyers who are relatively insulated from the broader macroeconomic environment. Collectors also understand that at this level, the art market has demonstrated its resilience in the face of financial uncertainty.

Edward Warburton, Private Sales Advisor, London

Japan’s international fair-y tale

Art Fair Tokyo—the largest fair in Japan—took place in mid-March with more than 140 galleries participating. As Japan opened its doors to visitors after three years of pandemic restrictions, an increased number of regional collectors from countries such as Taiwan, Korea, and Hong Kong were in attendance for this year’s edition.

Highlights included Kaikai Kiki Gallery (participating in the fair for the first time in 15 years), which presented works by MADSAKI, Otani Workshop, and others. Taka Ishii Gallery presented beautiful artworks by Oscar Murillo, Sofu Teshigahara, and Sterling Ruby. WAITINGROOM presented Asako Fujikura’s CGI video artwork, which made for a very eye-catching booth. The fair not only presented contemporary artworks, but also a section dedicated to antiques, which make up a large part of the Japanese art market.

Japan has several powerful names when it comes to its artists, but the art market itself has historically been more domestically focused. Today, however, it seems like the Japanese art scene is at an interesting and important stage of becoming more international in outlook. The participation of non-Japanese galleries such as Pearl Lam Galleries and Unit London at Art Fair Tokyo, for example, showed this international potential.

Hilary Joo, Sales Representative, Seoul

What We’re Anticipating

Tribeca ascendant

The gallery scene in New York City continues to blossom this spring with several new spaces opening in Tribeca. I am excited to attend the opening of Timothy Taylor’s new gallery on Leonard Street this month, and there is a growing buzz in the area with the recent news of Marian Goodman, Nino Mier Gallery, Alexander Gray Associates, and Lio Malca all announcing new spaces.

Last month also saw uncertainty in the financial sector, with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and its surrounding trouble in the banking sector. Many are wondering what effect this will have on the art market, but it is too soon to tell.

Though some say the art market lags behind the stock market, others note that there is little correlation, making the case for art as an alternative store of value. Art has shown its power to transcend the everyday and thrive under difficult circumstances before.

Despite all that is going on, I am betting on Tribeca and the 50-plus galleries that call it home to continue to foster a community for art and make an impact in the U.S. and beyond.

Christine Aschwald, Senior Director, Auctions and Private Sales, New York

Abstraction in Dallas

Installation view of “Considering Female Abstractions” at the Green Family Art Foundation, 2023. Photo by Evan Sheldon. Courtesy of Green Family Art Foundation.

So far in 2023, there seems to be a lingering enthusiasm to revisit the familiar art fair calendar of pre-COVID times. April is no exception.

This month I’m setting my sights on the Dallas Art Fair, a regional fair in a sometimes overlooked metropolis (in art industry terms, at least). The fair boasts a strong roster of 90 exhibitors from 22 countries and a smattering of satellite events at local institutions, including the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, and Dallas Contemporary.

I'm most looking forward to the Green Family Art Foundation’s must-see group show “Considering Female Abstractions.” The Green family has long established themselves as tastemakers in the emerging market thanks to their incisive collecting vision, which centers women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ artists.

The Foundation is particularly influential given its reputation for regular charitable contributions to top institutions in the U.S. and Europe. Their public exhibition space in Dallas marks a relatively new venture for the family, but they’ve already hosted six shows since opening in October 2021.

The current exhibition features work by 16 breakout artists, including Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Ilana Savdie, Francesca Mollett, Andrea Marie Breiling, Alicia Adamerovich, and Li Hei Di. Many of these artists have already set strong records in the market; and given the foundation’s keen eye, the lesser-known artists will likely follow suit.

The works at the show appear vibrant and dynamic, and the majority were created within the last year. There have been whispers of whether current trends might be turning from figuration to abstraction. While it might be too early to make such a bold claim, this exhibition seems to light the way for new possibilities in contemporary abstraction.

Caroline Perkins, Private Sales Advisor, New York

The Artists We’re Loving Now

Jen Hitchings
Lake Bassbinder, 2022
Taymour Grahne Projects

I’ve been following the American artist Jen Hitchings online for about a year, so I’m excited to finally view her work in person at her first solo show in London, “Cycles,” which opens at Taymour Grahne Projects on April 15th.

I’ve seen growing demand for highly stylized landscape paintings lately, and have facilitated private sales for works by Amy Lincoln, Camilla Engström, and Daisy Dodd-Noble: three other female painters that are working in a similar vein, who all had strong auction results in March.

Hitchings’s otherworldly landscapes are distinct in their sci-fi aesthetic, combining cosmic imagery with bold, high-contrast colors and undulating patterns. I expect to see her name popping up on collectors’ wishlists in the coming months.

Meave Hamill, Senior Private Sales Advisor, London

Lately, my eyes have been on works by Sofía Farjiani, an artist whose work is both captivating and profound. Farjiani’s work is a mix between art and science: Often we witness the artist using only four main colors for her palette, creating chaos among peace, and order among the simplicity of energy. The artist herself was inspired by other great creators such as Goethe and his work on color theories; as well as Shitao, and many others.

The depth and complexity of Farjiani’s works are a testament to her talent and dedication to process, and I believe that she is an artist to watch in the coming years. Currently, she is working on a new series, “Modern Icons,” representing research between the styles and shapes of old icons from different cultures, modernizing them through her view. Farjiani’s works have also been acquired by notable collectors from countries such as China, the U.S., Korea, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, and Georgia.

Itziar Ramos Ricoy, Private Sales Advisor, London

I’ve been excited about Johanna Seidel, whose work is currently on view in a group show, “The Songs of Hecate,” at Pictorum Gallery in London. The show draws on medieval, classical, and mystic practices, placing them in a contemporary context—a theme in tune with Seidel’s practice.

The German artist’s poetic, narrative paintings are spun through a web of influences across history, mythology, and dreams, combined with personal experiences and everyday elements.

Last year Seidel had a solo show at Artistellar in London (which also represents the artist) and she is set for a packed 2023: As well as her current show at Pictorum Gallery, she is taking part in group shows with CLC Gallery Beijing and She BAM! in Leipzig, then a solo show with the latter gallery later this year. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what she is working on when I visit her studio later this year.

Adriana Almeida, Senior Private Sales Director, London

Raghav Babbar, The Coal Seller, 2020. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Raghav Babbar is an artist whom I currently have my eye on. His art is a celebration of everyday people, portrayed in emotive and unconventional ways with a neutral color palette.

Despite being just 25 years old, his paintings are already achieving sky-high prices at auction. He has had several works achieve incredible results, including The Coal Seller (2020), which recently sold for £609,600 ($733,528) at Sotheby’s—a whopping 2,338% above its estimated value.

Babbar’s popularity continues to skyrocket, and this kind of success is rare for an emerging artist. I’m excited to see what he’ll create next.

George King, Senior Private Sales Advisor, London

Artsy Editorial