Thursday 28 November 2013

The Changing Face of the "High End" Market for Art and Antiquities

A mighty wave of new billionaires crash through the art world (Katrina Brooker, "Can Sotheby's Stay in the Picture?" Newsweek, 15 Nov 2013).
 Over the past five years, a huge wave of global wealth has been swelling, transforming markets and industries across the globe. Since 2009, the number of billionaires in the world has tripled, to 2,170. Last year, Asia produced 18 new billionaires and is on track to pass Europe's total by 2017. Many of the new rich are from parts of the world unaccustomed to this proliferation of wealth: Brazil, China, India, and Russia. Those 2,170 people control some $6.5 trillion and each year, on average, spend $78 million apiece on real estate, $60 million on yachts, $22 million on private jets, and $16 million on art. "These are people for whom five- or ten-million dollars is like you and me buying lunch," says Philip Hoffman, president of the Art Fund, an investment pool for buying art.
Auctioneers, art dealers, and collectors tell stories of new buyers who scoop up four or five items in a single auction, spending tens of millions of dollars. A Brazilian man who had never bought a major work of art recently plunked down $67 million at his first auction. An Asian collector bought one item for $1 million last spring, then jumped to a $10 million work in the summer sales, and most recently bought something for $30 million. During the sale of a Mark Rothko painting last spring, there were 10 bidders still in the running at the $50 million mark, and they pushed the price of that canvas to $86 million.
Obviously when these people set their sights on dugup antiquities, it spells big trouble for preservation of the sites from which such things come.

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