The Sky Is Falling

The Dreweatts Urban Art auction underperformed.

Work at Frieze didn’t sell as well as in previous years.

The Sotheby’s Contemporary Art auction was a flop.

Bonhams’ Urban Art auction left great pieces onsold and others at far below the estimate.

The art market, and the urban art market in particular, is not looking good. But is it over?

Adam Martin at  Beautiful Crime says no, and I have to agree. Martin argues for a second wave in the urban art market.

I talked to a number of dealers there and the odd Euro rich punter and the feeling was, the market had gotten a little overheated at the top end of late and this was a ‘shake down auction‘.

Ultimately it’s a positive outcome, greed has been replaced by a need for more realistic pricing. Lesser known Artist’s, Zero, Cept, Word to Mother did well and I think reflect the market’s need to look beyond the Banksy’s and Neate’s which are now in hedgeless hedge fund realms, and look to nurture some new talent.

I’d say this was officially the beginning of the second wave of urban art.

I very much agree with Martin’s prediction of a second wave of urban art. In this second wave, prices readjust and (to an extent) take hype out of the equation, and the size of the midrange market increases, offering underrated artists like Cept, Armsrock, and Know Hope a chance to increase both their fanbase and their prices. Artists like D*Face, on the other hand, may have a hard time in this new market.

The economic downturn is certainly not the end of the genre that some have speculated. In fact, due to the nature of urban art, it would be pretty hard for it to ever die out completely. Because of the anti-establishment and “working man” nature of a lot of urban art, parts of the market should be embraced and grow much stronger during an economic downturn, and others will decline. Essentially, the “real” collectors of urban art will come back into control of the market (for a little while).

I see the urban art market as a bit like a pickup truck on a dirt road. Right now, we’ve hit a rough patch, and when we make it back to a smooth road all the contents of the truck will be a bit jumbled around. Some artists will have fallen to the bottom of the market, and others will rise to the top.