Specialists Speak: 2017 Trends and Predictions in Collecting

Left: Charlotte Riordan of Lyon andamp; Turnbull; Right: François Tajan of Artcurial

This year was a pivotal one for the art and auction world. Saatchi Gallery held its first all-female show in January. David Bowie’s death rendered him one of the most talked-about artists of the year. May was a game-changing month for rare jewels – the 14.62-carat “Oppenheimer Blue” diamond sold for $57.5 million at Christie’s; at Sotheby’s, the 15.38-carat “Unique Pink” diamond sold for $31.6 million.

The news of the Brexit vote in late June caught the world by surprise, and caused a rippling of concerns across stakeholding nations. In October, TEFAF journeyed to New York City for the first time ever. The sale of Claude Monet’s “Grainstack” for $81.4 million in November underscored that even in an uncertain market, collectors will vie at the top level for superior quality.

We spoke with the founders and head specialists at 15 of our partnering auction houses and galleries to get their thoughts on the most exciting trends of 2016 and what they forecast to be the next big ones to come.

Debrah Dunner

Fine Art Specialist | Alex Cooper

Debrah Dunner“The trends in 2016 have been pretty consistent from the previous year, and I don’t see much change happening in 2017. Collectors are focusing their efforts on a few areas including Impressionism, Post-War, and Contemporary Art. Although this year saw a small drop in buying overall, there is enough trust in the market, coupled with the rise of the American stock and housing market, to predict a continued rise in both confidence and buying.”

“As a specialist of contemporary American craft, I have noticed a small uptick in both buying and realized prices of American craft’s most notable artists such as Wendell Castle, Sheila Hicks, and Peter Voulkos, to name a few. The gallery side is where American craft really shines, so it’s interesting to see this area of the art world get more attention in the auction venue.”

François Tajan

Deputy Chairman | Artcurial

Francois TajanFine art, design, classic cars, and comics appear to have been the most exciting specialties for 2016. Artcurial achieved a world record for a collectible car at auction this winter, which fetched €32 million, and our second European comics auction in Hong Kong in October was a huge success.”

“This year’s important names, such as Diego Giacometti, Belgian cartoonist Hergé, and Renzo Ferrari, show there’s an active market not only for specific fields, but also for the artists and designers’ whose impact goes beyond their respective specialty. I expect this trend to continue in 2017, as collectors show particular interest in 20th-century works.”

Guy Savill

Director | The Pedestal

Guy Savill“Within the market for fine period furniture, we are seeing a group buyers placing an increasing importance on a good balance of condition and any restoration having been sympathetically undertaken. Although ‘iconic’ is a term more commonly reserved for various landmark 20th-century designs, in period furniture we are seeing serious buyers holding out for good examples of what we now see as ‘iconic’ items; from a rare labelled Giles Grendey piece to standard pattern early 19th-century Gillow dressing table. If you have the magic combination of an identifiable landmark design and desirable condition then a market beating sale price is now very achievable.”

“While not exactly a new trend in the long established period furniture market, what we are suddenly seeing is a flurry of new clients emerging from the neutral shades and more contemporary focussed interiors synonymous with the first decade of the 21st century. Whilst embracing color, they have also realized the possibilities of using period furniture in their homes and its ability to add interest and anchor an interior. These clients may initially gravitate to something like an 18th-century console or mirror which is early to blend with other furnishings.”

“We hope this heralds a new generation of buyers more aware of the endless possibilities and individuality achievable with a back catalogue of four hundred years of furniture design.”

Sam Berkovitz

Owner | Concept Art Gallery

Sam Berkovitz“In 2017, I predict we’ll see continued growth and strong sales for the Chinese fine and decorative arts markets, with much of the property returning to Chinese nationals and the expatriate Chinese.”

“Online bidding continues to grow in percentage of lots purchased and amount of revenue. This will further reduce the live attendees at auctions as bidders adopt the convenience of telephone and online bidding.”

“Modern and contemporary art before 2005 will continue to sell strongly, while traditional furniture and artwork continue to remain flat. Artwork by artists without substantial credentials and reputations will remain difficult to sell. Jewelry sales will continue to grow as buyers get more comfortable buying at auction. Auctions will gain an increasingly large segment of the overall market for jewelry.”

Alasdair Nichol

Vice Chairman, Head of Fine Art | Freeman’s

Alasdair Nichol“In a year of political turbulence which saw both the Brexit vote and U.S. election, it was evident that many people were sitting tight and reluctant to sell. The most recent Modern/Impressionist and Contemporary auctions in New York City were almost 50 percent down from where they were at this time last year. The issue this year was a lack of supply. There was abundant demand for sensibly estimated artworks of good quality preferably coming fresh to the market – the best will always be aggressively pursued even in a down market.”

“Single owner collections with either an interesting provenance or compelling backstory – and preferably both – performed exceptionally well at all price points. Sotheby’s David Bowie auction is a notable example of that. Such sales have the added benefit of bringing out new bidders captivated by the abundant stories surrounding them and desirous of the lustre attached to the previous owner.”

“Looking ahead, confidence in the Old Masters market has taken a blow and will continue to be undermined by the gradually unfolding story of the fakes believed to originate from Italy – the purchaser of the “Portrait of a Man” attributed to Frans Hals sold by private treaty at Sotheby’s has already been reimbursed $11 million or so that it cost him. About 20 to 25 other fakes are rumored to be in existence and this will cast a shadow. It will likely be one of the art world’s biggest stories.”

“On a more positive note, it has been a good year for modern British artists from Nicholson and Moore to School of London painters such as Auerbach and Hockney. Collecting areas such as the St. Ives School and the Scottish Colorists have also performed well. Many new American collectors are entering this field and it is likely that even more will join them given the favorable dollar to sterling exchange rate. In spite of the political upheaval, the special relationship will endure.”

Nicholas B. Nicholson

Senior Vice President, Head of Furniture & Decorative Arts | Freeman’s

Nicholas B. Nicholson“In quarter four, we continued to see consistent growth in prices realized for 20th-century design including continued strong performance by George Nakashima. We also see solid performance in the field of Americana with fresh pieces bringing solid prices.”

“Since last spring, we have noted quiet growth in English furniture and silver. There appears to be the beginning of a renewed interest in the field, no doubt spurred by good material and the current low prices.”

Lauren Pressler

Specialist in Furniture & Decorative Arts | Clars Auction Gallery

Nicholas B. Nicholson“As we found at Clars in 2016, 20th-century studio furniture remains strong; George Nakashima, Philip Lloyd Powell, and Sam Maloof continue to increase in value with projected market escalation in 2017. Contemporary boutique designers such as Edward Barnsley and Hal Taylor enjoy the popularity of these trend setters. While mid-range ‘brown furniture’ continues to slump, definitively, buyer inclinations underscore the handmade, smartly crafted one-off studio furniture that conveys a sense of character.”

“Keep your sights on specialty wine and automobile markets, as last year’s strong successes predicate fruitful growth in 2017, with a roll-call of great producers and private collections slated for the New Year.”

“2017 is a great time to invest in 20th-century Indian, Iranian, and African-American artists. Just this October, Clars boasted the $10,890 sale of an oil painting by Iranian artist Abolghassem Saidi, far exceeding the $3,000-5,000 estimate. We see leading houses gearing up for these specialized auctions, setting precedents for the rest of the industry.”

Mike Fredericks

Department Head, Rare Lamps & Glass | James D. Julia

Mike Fredericks“Collectors today continue to seek out conservatively estimated, fresh-to-the-market merchandise, and are focused on the most rare and best condition examples in each genre. Our most recent auction of November 2016 illustrates this point, with a Tiffany Studios Dragonfly lamp estimated at $120,000-180,000 being hotly contested among multiple bidders before selling for $515,475. Each category, be it French cameo glass or sterling silver, proved the same, with the rarest and best condition items exceeding estimates to result in a $3.3 million total, our department’s highest grossing sale in history.”

“As we come to the end of the year, there seems to be encouraging energy in the collector community with hope that the election results will have a positive impact on the current market values and free up more discretionary income for middle-market buyers.”

“I believe the high-end market will continue to stay strong in 2017, while middle-market goods may continue to be soft until the political environment and economy stabilize following the transition. Overall, sellers should embrace the concept of conservative estimates that garner enthusiasm and participation from today’s buyers. I also see upward momentum with contemporary glass market with strong prices being realized.”

Charlotte Riordan

Contemporary Art & Paintings Specialist | Lyon & Turnbull

Charlotte Riordan“Post War and Contemporary art still remains the most active area of the market. They are our best attended and buzziest sales and have some of our strongest selling rates. In the age of internet and telephone bidding, a full sale room is always a pleasant sight!”

“The Bowie sale inevitably made a big impact on the art market, and I believe was good news for collectors of modern Scottish artists including John Bellany, Alan Davie, and Eduardo Paolozzi, who were featured prominently in his collection. We handle these artists frequently and while we have been witnessing an upturn in the sales of their work, Bowie’s seal of approval may gain them even wider recognition.”

“In the antiques world, we’ve been noticing our client’s taste turning to more simply constructed furniture. They are paying more attention to form and line rather than ornamentation, which fits better in modern interiors. Early Georgian pieces are an example of this.”

“We end the year on a high with our flagship Scottish Paintings and Sculpture sale which features select works from the 18th to the 20th century. The work of the Scottish Colorists is proving as popular as ever and we anticipate them being the sale highlights, continuing the excellent run we’ve had for them this year after our sale of the Wood and Robertson Collections in June.”

“On that topic, though a good or interesting provenance has always been desirable, we’re noticing an increase in its effect across all of our sales, boosting values more than ever before. People seem to be engaging more with the story behind the pieces as well as the quality.”

Nigel Freeman

Director of African-American Fine Art | Swann Auction Galleries

Nigel Freeman“There is a new embrace by collectors of politically-conscious fine art, a reflection of our turbulent times, whether it’s art from the Civil Rights era or today. This can be seen at the upcoming exhibitions of the Whitney Biennial and ‘Soul of a Nation’ at the Tate.”

“The next big thing in 2017 should be a larger international embrace of African- and Latin-American currents as American art continues to be redefined.”

Daile Kaplan

Director of Photography & Photobooks | Swann Auction Galleries

Daile Kaplan“Given photography’s ubiquity today, we are seeing an increasingly diverse market of collectors. Typically, new collectors are attracted to a particular image or style and are anxious to learn more about the artist or photographer. These buyers are drawn from a range of fields, including American painting, contemporary art, Outsider and Folk art, graphic arts and design, and antiquarian books.”

“Condition, rarity, provenance and artist reputation drive collectors and influence their decisions. The best examples of fine art and social documentary photographs – both vintage and modern prints with a fascinating backstory – as well as dynamically designed photobooks by master and emerging artists will escalate in value. Vernacular photography, a sub-set of classical photography, will continue to attract younger collectors, especially those who are looking for a point of access into the market and enjoy the sense of discovery associated with images that celebrate the medium as a universal language.”

Given the current social and political climate, art with a voice will continue to be on the rise. It will be gritty, raw, and emotional.– Jenn Singer, Jenn Singer Gallery

Edo Ophir

Owner | Ophir Gallery

Edo Ophir“The top trend that we are seeing today in the field of art, antiques, collectibles, and jewelry is that the top tier of these categories is what’s continuing to sell well in the marketplace. Truly the best and highest quality objects are what seems to be holding their own. Marginal and mediocre objects in the marketplace have taken a significant hit as per salability.”

“Collectors today are more sophisticated than they once were and tend to be investing their money into top tier or very high end as these trends show that there is stability and growth in pricing with those items that fall under high end or investment quality. In the realm of Tiffany Studios, which is one area in which we specialize, we are seeing fewer buyers for the general run of the mill…but when we are able to offer top tier, rare, and high end objects to our collectors, we tend to sell well and fast.”

Amelia Jeffers

Auctioneer & President | Garth’s & Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers

Amelia Jeffers“Although we handle a broad range of material at Garth’s and Selkirk, each auction house tends to have a niche or two for which they are known very well. At Garth’s, it is Americana, antique firearms, and jewelry. The firearms market continues to be very strong, and the exuberance does not seem to be slipping in any way. Within the Americana market, Folk art items continue to have considerable interest, particularly early painted furniture, but redware and stoneware are also on fire.”

“Since fine jewelry covers commodities like gold, silver, and gemstones, it has the image of being a safe place for collectors to park their cash. Even as the economy has picked up, jewelry has remained a bright spot in the collecting world. At Selkirk, bidders get excited about good paintings, high-style decorative arts, and silver. The demand for each of these categories is deep and should continue well into 2017.”

“Period furniture should continue its steady climb back from the recession bottom as more and more people matriculate to collecting as a way to find greater value in their furnishings. Glass is continuing to climb, as well – with the very best art glass pulling into the forefront of auctions and shows. I do think the firearms, jewelry, and fine art markets have no slow down in the near term.”

Jenn Singer

Owner | Jenn Singer Gallery

Jenn Singer“While figurative painting continues to make a much-welcomed return, colorful abstract and sculptural work is still in demand. Activist artwork and artwork by female artists and artists with diverse cultural backgrounds are being increasingly featured and sought after.”

“Given the current social and political climate, art with a voice – a strong activist message – is and will continue to be on the rise. It will be gritty, raw, and emotional and hopefully help engage and connect more people through art. In this case, the importance of the message may trump the market as we know it.”

Sandra Germain

Owner | Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers

Sandra Germain“We have seen increased interest in high quality illustration art from our clients. In our most recent auction in October 2016, one of our top performing lots was a group of 25 original illustrations of vintage automobiles by Thomas Hoyne. Hoyne is primarily known for his photo-realistic illustrations of sailing vessels. We had several interested clients before the sale and were thrilled when the final price doubled the high estimate, bringing $32,400.”

“Another popular item from the sale was John James Audubon’s ‘Portrait of Miss Audubon.’ Few portraits are known by the famous wildlife illustrator, including this portrait of his daughter. It, too, sold well above the high estimate, bringing $19,200. Although this work is not an illustration, artists of the illustration genre brought healthy interest at our most auction.”

“Trends are constantly changing and it’s hard to know exactly what buyers will be looking at in 2017. Modern and Contemporary art is certainly dominating the market and will probably continue to do so in the near future. We have found, however, that quality paintings across all genres achieve the best results at auction. Buyers are looking for fresh-to-the-market, good condition, and superior quality examples.”

Holly Mazar-Fox & Linda Rodeck

Client Services & Business Development
Senior Canadian Fine Art Specialist, Vice President Fine Art
Waddington’s Auctioneers & Appraisers

Holly Mazar-Fox & Linda Rodeck“A few years back, you might have heard collectors, dealers, and auctioneers lamenting the fact that the supply of great art was drying up. The talk was that there was increasingly less fresh blue chip work available to sell and auctions would eventually devolve into re-offering or ‘churning’ bought-ins and other stale stock. Clearly that prediction was erroneous.”

“In Canada, the fall 2016 auction season saw over $50 million change hands in a three-day period. This was unprecedented. And we know that great prices realized at auction serve as honey to the bee, drawing out long hidden treasures ripe for consignment. Across the board, at all prices levels: quality always rules.”

“We’re also witnessing an increasing openness to subjects, periods, and media that may have been overlooked in the past. There is a greater appetite for the atypical or off-trend, provided these items possess a high calibre of artistic competence. This openness makes us feel buoyant about the next quarter.”

“Our clients are increasingly catholic in their taste, exhibiting a high degree of self-determination when it comes to collecting and acquiring across multiple categories. They have both a willingness and capacity to spend and they respond to the bounty of property we bring to them with an enthusiasm and exhilaration we haven’t seen in some time. We’re obsessed about how to improve the auction experience and know that leveraging technology is key – our prediction is that this pull towards innovation will continue to strengthen in 2017!”