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Digital Subscriptions > Antiques Trade Gazette > 2323 > The year ahead 2018

The year ahead 2018

A new year is a time for the antiques trade to look forward – with trepidation to the findings of the ivory consultation and Brexit negotiations and with optimism as the industry celebrates key anniversaries and emerging markets

Leonardo: The trickle-down effect

No prizes for guessing which single lot commanded the highest price and most attention at auction in 2017. Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi drew more media coverage than any work of art ever sold. It was knocked down at a staggering $400m ($450m with premium) at Christie’s New York in November and is now on its way to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

But does the remarkable price for the picture – the merits of which were much discussed both before and after the sale – have implications for the art market in general?

We believe it does – but perhaps not in the way some observers have suggested.

1. Cross-selling

With the Old Master market continuing to be affected by issues of supply and selectivity, it is unlikely that one enormous price paid by a Middle Eastern buyer will rejuvenate this market.

Christie’s unorthodox decision to offer Salvator Mundi in its Post- War and Contemporary Art sale is perhaps more significant. That raised eyebrows, as, in a similar vein, did Sotheby’s inclusion of Michael Schumacher’s Formula One Ferrari in its equivalent contemporary art sale in November, where it took $6.7m.

“Trophy lots in any discipline are now treated differently

After decades of splitting markets into a series of defined niche categories, such cross-selling is a shift in tactics by the big two. ‘Trophy’ lots in any discipline are now treated differently. Already adopted in high-end decorative art sales such as the Treasures and Exceptional auctions – and in Sotheby’s 2017 themed sales such as Erotic: Passion & Desire and Actual Size – cross-selling has now been tested with some notable results in the fine art market.

The portrait of Anne of Hungary’s court fool, Elisabet, by Jan Sanders van Hemessen (c.1504-56), a 19½ x 16in (49 x 40cm) oil on oak panel that sold at Sotheby’s in July at £1.8m.

The auctioneers said the intriguing work chimed with a taste beyond the traditional collecting field. “Our clients are not worried by the weird” and are “less concerned with art matching their sofas” commented Sotheby’s worldwide co-chairman of Old Master paintings, George Gordon.

It seems logical to predict more high-calibre items will be offered in this way. “The Leonardo was – to date – an exception and innovation rather than a trend,” says Dirk Boll, a Christie’s president.

However, “bringing together the ‘best of type’, whatever the category, reflects the eclectic collecting habits of savvy and powerful collectors today, who are less bound to a certain period, but search for the highest quality across categories”.

Sotheby’s deputy chairman of Europe, Mark Poltimore, says that while there is “plenty more gas left in the tank for our traditional selling categories”, he agrees it is now important to consider offering unusual and important works in sales outside their usual context.

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About Antiques Trade Gazette

Published every week since 1971, Antiques Trade Gazette is affectionately known as ‘the Bible of the antiques trade’. A long tradition of authority, integrity and accuracy, makes it the essential read for everyone who loves antiques. With a subscription to Antiques Trade Gazette, you’ll stay ahead of all the developments in the art and antiques market, plus you’ll enjoy • A comprehensive auction calendar – see when and where every sale will be happening • Exclusive interviews with dealers, giving you the inside track on the trade • Breaking news on key industry developments • Secrets, stories and tips from leading specialists and collectors • Top lots advertised by auctioneers • Previews of the best art and antiques fairs and markets • Special supplements focusing on specific collecting areas

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