New York, 16 May 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA).
The fact that the art market has become a sure value in this period of crisis is no longer questioned. On a whole, the western market (America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand) progressed in 2012 by 5.5% with sales amounting to a total of $7.2bn. At the beginning of the year 2013, the United States went back on the top step of the podium in this crazy race, as China previously took over in a remarkable way. Because of New York’s great vitality on the artistic scene, the city has become the strength of the United States and by itself accounts for more than 95% of the sales representing the value of the country, the American market’s share having increased from 23.5% in 2011 to 27% in 2012. Hence, New York maintains its status as a central part of the art market, along with London, Beijing, Hong Kong and Paris, in spite of raging competition. Thus, here is an overview of the reasons why the art market has not had enough of the Big Apple.
New York, the Eldorado of European Artists
The first element underlying the attraction of European artists to the city is the Armory Show, which was held for the first time in 1913. There, European artists presented their modernistic works and eventually created a shock on the American artistic scene, which itself was influenced by these new trends and soon embraced new movements. As a matter of fact, this exhibition unveiled a new artistic truth for Americans, who no longer see creation as mainly based on aesthetics and realism but rather leave the conservative model aside for the more personal expression of the artists. A new modernistic movement indeed saw the light of day in New York, with artists such as Stieglitz, and painters like Demuth and Hartley. In 1929, the opening of the Museum of Modern Art drew the interest of the artistic scene to this city, since Paris ceded the top position that it had fought to keep from New York at the end of the Second World War. A painting school was formed, the School of New York, which mastered in abstract art as well as expressionism. Its goal was in fact to set aside formal compositions, including still life, and take up instinctive arrangements for spaces and colours. Among the pioneers of the movement were Pollock, De Kooning and Rothko. These artists’ works were widely exhibited, namely during the 9th Street Art Exhibition in 1951, the Second Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture in 1953, and the Six New York Artist’s Annual Exhibition in 1957. New York thus became the place where the majority of American artists converged in their quest for fame and they consequently made a name for the School of New York. In the long run, a similarly popular new movement emerged from the 1950s to 1960s, that of Pop Art. Within this movement, artists used different media to reproduce objects and daily images from popular American culture in a satirical manner, including coca-cola bottles, cans and comics. The best known artists of this movement are unquestionably Warhol, Rivers and Lichtenstein. Other movements also sprang up, namely Action Painting, Fluxus, Color Field Painting, Hard-Edge Painting, Minimal Art and Lyrical Abstraction. As artists are indeed very much present in New York and have made the city dynamic, museums are now developing themselves in order to bring forth the fruits of this vast artistic creation.
A Plethora of Museums
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is one of the biggest and greatest museums. It is located near Central Park and has a second building, “The Cloisters,” which is at Fort Tryon Park and specialises in medieval art. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is often considered as the main competitor of the Met. Then comes the Brooklyn Museum, which is the second museum in terms of size in New York and one of the biggest in the United States, and which permanent collections include over one and a half million objects from ancient Egypt to contemporary art, as well as the representative art of different cultures. New York is also filled with museum institutions and modest-sized galleries, among which are the Frick Collection that houses a collection of upmarket pieces created by ancient masters, as well as sculptures, ceramics, furniture, enamels and tapestries. We may mention the Jewish Museum of New York, which was created in 1904 and contains a collection of about 28,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and archaeological artefacts among many other important pieces pertaining to the preservation of Jewish culture and heritage. Museums are becoming more specialised with the creation of museums such the American Museum of Natural History, the Cooper-Hewitt, the National Design Museum as well as the International Center of Photography, among many more. This phenomenon is far from slowing down and New York has been marked by the springing up of cultural institutions throughout the past few years. Long Island is a coveted spot in the artistic sector and reputed institutions have been set up, namely the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and the Sculpture Center. For instance, in 2006, more than 60 artistic institutions were created, namely the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts and the Morgan Library & Museum. This can be explained by the budget allocated by the Department of Cultural Affairs of the city regarding artistic projects, which is one of the largest. In fact, from 2006 to 2010, it amounted to $865m, which is more than twice the budget of the $339.6m allocated between 2001 and 2004.
The Voluntary Participation of the Artistic Community
The city of New York favours exhibitions organised in public places in order to draw the attention of the wider public to art as much as possible. Thus, many famous artists have created public installations, namely Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, the Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor, the Mosaic Man by Jim Power and The Gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Metro stations are also very much solicited for these kinds of events. This willingness to popularise art has led to the creation of new artistic trends in the city of New York, namely the American modern culture of graffiti which started in Philadelphia and moved towards the Big Apple in 1970. The graffiti culture inspired an artistic style as well as a social philosophy called “Zoo York,” the name of a metro tunnel under the Central Park Zoo, an area of predilection for all the graffiti artists of the first generation, namely ALI (Marc André Edmonds), the founder of The Soul Artists. Underground tunnels thus became scenes of expression for all graffiti artists, until a law passed in the 1980s enforced the prohibition of metro and underground tunnel tagging, forcing the artists to express themselves in the streets.
Melting Pot by Excellence
New York, with its high immigration rate, looks more like an international city than a specifically American town. The city is indeed open to new comers and has come to be the prime example of a successful melting pot. As a matter of fact, no particular community seems to predominate, though the most represented nationalities are those of the Dominican Republic, China, Russia, Italy, Poland and India. This cultural diversity has enormously contributed towards the enrichment of the city’s culture and artistic experiences, and has as well favoured the creation of specific institutions devoted to the exhibition of works representing these different cultures.
Climax or Decadence in Today’s World?
Presently, New York is the centre of the art market and has set its mark on the high-end market and contemporary art. This can be explained by the fall of the dollar, which has had an attractive effect on European buyers. In addition, New York is shining with institutions that are more and more numerous and developed, such as Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the city’s mythical districts where the largest galleries are gathered. Thus, Soho and Chelsea, with some 200 galleries, continue to liven up the city and bring momentum to the artistic scene. But the city has also managed to develop the two other sale models in vogue today: auction houses and art fairs.
A Fully Booked Agenda!
New York has made itself a must-see, namely with the parallel programming of big events in the month of May. For instance, during the Frieze Art Fair, some 800 galleries were present and exhibited over 5,000 artists. The most prestigious fairs are geared to attract many other events. Hence, Frieze has led to the wake of “off” fairs such as Cutlog, Pulse, Nada and Pool. These events are thus becoming true marathons for collectors who appreciate this type of gathering, which allows them to have more choices but also the opportunity to sort out works according to their tastes. For example, Frieze is a blockbuster for renowned living artists where works by Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor, Georg Baselitz and Joan Mitchell in particular can be seen. The same flagship works return to the prestigious auction sales organised during springtime. Thus, according to Artprice, three works by Baselitz were featured on 15 May, as well as three drawing games by Carl Andre, during the same sale. Between 13 and 16 May, eight works by Joan Mitchell were also offered, of which one was estimated between $4.5m and $6m. The month of May will therefore be filled with the sales of thousands of artworks, before things change and “the place to be” becomes Hong Kong with ArtBasel, which will be held from 23 to 26 May. Results are starting to be published. The sale organised on 8 May at Christie’s New York, which was dedicated to modern and impressionist art, amounted to the great sum of $120m, with the sale of 94% of the lots on offer and 90% in terms of global value. As for the 7 May sale at Sotheby’s New York, also dedicated to modern and impressionist art, it amounted to $230.4m. It is the second session with the most importance in value since 2008. The shy-high estimates of the artworks offered is namely due to the setting of estimates according to the excellent results obtained at the main active auction houses in New York in 2012, which are Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips and Bonhams. In fact, in May 2012, Christie’s and Sotheby’s generated $578m with their sales dedicated to post-war and contemporary art. Auction houses thus needn’t worry about their success and have lots of bright days ahead, to the point that the sales scheduled from 13 to 16 by Christie’s featuring Woman with flowered hat by Lichtenstein do not have any estimates as yet, as a new record is expected for the artist who holds an impressive preceding record of $40m for the sale of Sleeping girl (1964) on 9 May 2012 at Sotheby’s. The artist’s popularity thus increased by 300% throughout the past decade and in fact brought him credibility as a serious competitor for Warhol, who has until now remained on the throne.
The incredible success of auction houses can also be explained by the scarceness and quality of the pieces offered and by New York’s tendency to promote its national artists above all, namely Basquiat, Jeff Koons and Warhol. It should finally be noted that, among the artists that experience the most success today, Murakami claims his filiation to Warhol, whom he hybrids with his Japanese culture, which works well with the wider public’s fascination with American Pop Art. It seems as though New York has not said its last words and continues to struggle in this endless race, despite its dealing with tough competition namely from Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta.