Life lessons: what the art market learned from 2018

Georgina Adam speaks with three leading art world figures on the key events of last year and what 2019 may hold

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At the end of 2018, I brought together three leading figures to discuss the year in the art market for The Art Newspaper Weekly podcast. Included were Francis Outred, Christie’s head of post war and contemporary art, who had just announced he was leaving the firm after a ten-year stint (but would not be drawn on his next move); the dealer Thaddaeus Ropac, who opened his fifth gallery, in London, in 2017 and Victoria Siddall, the director of all three Frieze fairs and about to add a fourth, in Los Angeles, being inaugurated in February.

The episode is available to listen on our website and wherever you usually listen to your podcasts, but what follows is an edited version of the discussion, accompanied by my comments as I reflect on the past twelve months and take my traditional peer into the future of the market in the coming year, with some additional thoughts from our art market editor, Anna Brady.

What, for each of you, was the most outstanding event of 2018?

Thaddaeus Ropac: The recognition of African American artists. You can see the change of interest on every level—from institutions and collectors, gallery shows, auction results. When I think 30 years ago the then director of the Centre Pompidou almost lost his job because of Magiciens de la Terre [the 1989 exhibition, showing 50% non-Western artists]! For so long, the art world was very European male-dominated—finally this has changed.

Francis Outred: In the auction business we saw some significant collections built over the last century come to market: for example, Rockefeller, Ebsworth and S.I. Newhouse. These examples have generated a lot of interest from new collectors.

Victoria Siddall: I was very happy to see the repositioning of women artists, both in the marketplace and institutionally. This has been growing over the past few years, but this year has felt particularly important. An example of that commitment was that the Frieze Tate fund bought a series of photographs by Sonia Boyce.

Georgina Adam: I think that the interest in African American artists, and in Africa as a new art region, can only be destined to grow, in particular because of the number of new museums—in the US and in Africa—devoted to this field. The same for female artists–women remain behind at the moment in terms of value and representation but I see the catch-up continuing, both in price and recognition, starting with younger primary market artists—but the trickle through to the top end of the auction market will take years. However, with the fast growth of any previously underappreciated market comes the risk of fakes. And let us not forget who still largely controls the market: the white European or North American male.

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