Monday, November 22, 2010

Gold rush

Is the art market avoiding the recession? To read reports of the recent International Art Centre auction in Auckland you'd think so. The star of the show was Dame Kiri Te Kanawa who off-loaded a C F Goldie (Forty winks) from her collection for a record $573,000.

Promoting art through its celeb owners has always done well for the auction world. As we’ve mentioned before the modern story starts in 1996 when Jackie Onassis’s estate rang up over $34.5 million with objects fetching up to 80 times their estimated value. The fever increased with the Andy Warhol estate (1988 - $32 million), the Duke and Duchess of Windsor estate (1997 - $30 million) and the YSL estate (2009 - $622 million).

Back in NZ ICA spokesperson Richard Thomson told reporters that, “one highly encouraging aspect of the sale in the bidding for Dame Kiri's Goldie was that there were so many genuine buyers in the $400,000 range.” So maybe we can put around $178,000 of the final price down to Te Kanawa's X factor.

Kiri fever and the presence of a I’ve-got-$400,000-burning-a-hole-in-my-pocket crowd didn’t appear to set the rest of the auction alight. The nine ‘highlights’ listed by the auction house only averaged around $16,500 each, and a painting by Ralph Hotere struggled to get to half its estimated value of $100,000. If that’s not a sign of recession it's certainly a sign of a substance that is very close to it. The IAC’s reassurance that Goldies are, “prized, they are gold,” would have rung true for nervous investors in a recession. What else do you hoard when times get tough?