Monday, June 22, 2009

Market forces

The words ‘transparent’ and ‘art market’ are not ones you usually put together in the same sentence so it was interesting to hear Hamish Coney from Art + Object at the New Dowse on Thursday. His topic was the New Zealand market but this was not one of your mumbling, blurry slide, can’t-quite-hear-what-you’re-saying affairs. Coney used PowerPoint with interesting images and (up to the last few slides) without acres of text. Even more unusually for this sort of thing, he was articulate, entertaining and had a point of view.

The main message was that the art market is like a giant revolving door. You’re in, you’re not quite so in, you’re drifting out, you’re out, you’re starting to come back in again. And so, in what Coney called the Fonterra Effect, Goldie is back (again), along with Pink and White Terraces and historic landscapes. If that been it the presentation wouldn’t have been so interesting, but Coney also discussed how each complete circle of the door brings its own subtle changes. This time it seems the landscapes need a historic connection. Hills and trees – yawn. Hills and trees with Von Tempsky having his lunch - bring it on. In 2008 the five top selling artists were Goldie, Hammond, Bloomfield (Bloomfield!), McCahon and Lindauer. Of these Goldie represented 15% of total sales at auction and Goldie, Bloomfield and Lindauer combined fetched 21%. Is this tough times creating a more conservative market or, as Coney hinted, rich farmers spending up (again)?

As to the size of the art market in New Zealand, Coney reckons around $65 to $75 million. This sounds low to us. It’s that transparency thing again. The public record covers auctions but not dealer sales on the secondary market or indeed commissioned works. Many private sales and resales regularly hit numbers way above anything the auction houses can dream about.
It would be good to have online access to the Coney calculations, and it would be great if he would put them up on the Art + Auction site. While they all come from the public domain, Coney has spent a lot of time working them into a coherent form. Information is power, especially when you share it around.
Image: The snazzy plasticised ticket that got you into the Hamish Coney’s presentation