Gustav Klimt sale shows resilience of high-end fine art market

03rd March 2017

The high-end art market is showing resilience in the face of current political and UK economic shifts, with one of Gustav Klimt’s masterpieces selling for £48 million at Sotheby’s auction house. It has been reported that sales from the auction evening in London had hit a staggering £194.7 million, a growth of 108 per cent on the figure from the equivalent event a year previous. 

Klimt’s world-renowned ‘Bauerngarten’ painting of a flowery impressionist landscape was created by the Austrian artist in 1907. The recent selling of the masterpiece reached the highest ever price fetched by a piece of art at auction in Europe, according to reports by the Independent.

There were four bidders in competition for Bauerngarten earlier this week (March 1st), according to Sotheby’s. 

Since 1994, the painting had been in a private collection and was on exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art London. The auction house described the painting as “one of the greatest works by the artist ever to appear at auction”, “innovative in its composition” and “jewel-like in its exquisite blaze of colours”.

Helena Newman, the global co-head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art department, commented: “Tonight’s outstanding result is a new benchmark for London sales as much as it is a statement on the momentum of the global art market in 2017.” 

Among the other paintings that were auctioned was Picasso’s Plant de Tomates of 1944, which was purchased for £17 million. It is part of a series of five works depicting a tomato plant in the artist’s apartment. In addition to this, Amedeo Modigliani’s Portrait of Baranowski sold for £16 million.

However, despite these high price tags, the global art market remains immune to economic jitters.

Artprice, a French online art price database, said that the art market is “a refuge against economic and financial turbulence, with substantial and recurring returns”. The database company explained that growth, among other components, was still being driven by the ease of access to information, electronic sales and a growing population of wealth younger art consumers. 

In terms of countries with the most art sales in 2016, China topped the list with a record turnover of $4.8billion (£3.9 billion) and 91,400 lots sold, according to Artprice. The US then followed with $3.5billion (£2.9billion) and 72,500 lots sold. The UK then followed with 17 per cent of the global auction turnover. 

Artprice pulls data from roughly 4,500 auction houses across the world and claims that global art sales are down by 22 per cent from 2015. It is believed that this decrease is particularly a result of a 50 per cent plunge in sales of works valued at $10 million or more. 

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