A comprehensive report on the current art market from the Art Lending Services division at U.S. Trust

by leslierankowfinearts

U.S. TRUST, AS DO MANY OF THE MOST HIGHLY REGARDED BANKING AND FINANCIAL ADVISORY INSTITUTIONS, OFFERS EXTENSIVE ART SERVICES. AS ART IS NOW CONSIDERED TO BE AN ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENT, AND NOT SIMPLY AN AESTHETIC PLEASURE, BANKING HAS ENTERED VERY FORCEFULLY IN THE COMPETITION TO PROVIDE ART LENDING SERVICES TO HELP BOTH COLLECTORS AND INSTITUTIONS HELP NAVIGATE THE COMPLEX ART WORLD.

RECENTLY U.S. TRUST, THE PRIVATE BANKING ARM OF BANK OF AMERICA,  PUBLISHED AN EXTREMELY COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS ON THE STATE OF THE CURRENT ART MARKET. IN A TIME OF TURMOIL AND CHANGE, GENERAL REEVALUATION AND A GLOBAL SHIFT IN THE ART MARKET, IT IS PARTICULARLY RELEVANT AND THE LRFA BLOG IS PLEASED TO SHARE IT WITH YOU. WE ARE DELIGHTED, AS WELL, TO REPORT THAT DANA PRUSSIAN, VICE PRESIDENT AT U.S. TRUST ART LENDING SERVICES, WILL BE CONTRIBUTING TO THE LRFA BLOG IN THE MONTHS AHEAD.

PART ONE

“We feel that you should not buy art purely as an investment. Buy it for love, desire, legacy, culture, pleasure, addiction,

status, and community.”

Art Services Market Update

At Bank of America Private Bank, we maintain a sharp focus on the art market and on the collectors, dealers, auctions specialists and institutions that make it function. We work closely with many of you across four pillars: art lending, art planning, consignment services and institutional arts endowment management. This update features our observations on the current state of the art market from a business perspective.

The Market

  • Current low interest rates, solid equity markets and more stratified wealth creation worldwide continues to drive capital toward art. The maturation and globalization of the art market has expanded the collector base and transformed the art market from a niche lifestyle into a $60 billion global industry.1 Still, overall art market growth in terms of total art sales has stalled since 2012, even as the S&P 500has currently more than doubled since that time.
  • If the Federal Reserve (Fed) continues its dovish policy, we expect collectors’ continued allocation of capital to art. When interest rates fall, the opportunity cost of holding non-interest-bearing assets like art goes down. The art market is driven by sentiment, so the greatest risk we see is a geopolitical event that impedes the global flow of capital and credit prompting collectors to pause.

• We anticipate that financial returns for contemporary art will be lower in the next decade than some may expect. The market has absorbed a lot of art since the turn of the century. An exceedingly large percentage of those works may be worth close to zero in a generation or so. And because we’re in a more mature and efficient art market, there may be fewer upside surprises than in decades past. We feel that you should not buy art purely as an investment. Buy it for your passion, enjoyment, legacy, culture, status or community.

The Auctions

• During the New York Spring Auctions, the market absorbed over $2 billion of art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, handily above the $1.6 billion pre-sale estimate. It was the first auction season defined by large estates of postwar
and contemporary art. Eye-catching results such as the $91 million Koons “Rabbit”, the $110 million Monet “Haystack” and the rapidly growing market for KAWS belie a more modest 5.1% annualized return2 achieved for repeat sales during the season. Given the recent performance of London auctions and the lack of clarity around a Brexit deal, New York will continue to be the premiere sale site for high-end postwar and contemporary art for the foreseeable future. Fresh-to- market works, typical of the artist’s oeuvre, in good condition, with strong provenance, continue to perform strongest at auction. Works by female and black artists also continue their rise.

• You likely saw that in June, Sotheby’s accepted a $3.7 billion buyout offer from French media entrepreneur Patrick Drahi. Interestingly, Bonhams was also bought out earlier this year. Going private will allow Sotheby’s more flexibility to compete for top lots, which will benefit major collectors, and will provide time and space to evolve its business model, which, like Christie’s, is challenged. Competition for top pictures has become a race-to-the-bottom: China isn’t the growth engine everyone hoped it would be, and online sales have yet to deliver meaningful scale or margin expansion. With business margins at around 10% for the industry, auction houses are officially on the hunt for new revenue streams.

• Look for the auction houses to continue to expand into art advisory, financial services, brand licensing and even investment research as they look beyond their supply-constrained auction business. As a collector, you may see better terms when consigning top works at auction, but expect higher commissions for lower- value works. Buyer premiums will continue to expand at all levels. Finally, get ready for more convenience. Virtual reality will change how you view upcoming sales, and artificial intelligence will soon be sending you an endless array of Netflix-style lot recommendations across all categories based on what you’ve perused across the internet.