The Westbridge Art Market Report asked the country’s leading auction houses for their observations on the upcoming fall Canadian art season and how it might play out given the current global economic crisis. Here’s what they had to say.
Robert Heffel, Vice-President Heffel Fine Art Auction House:
"For a number of years now what we have done is set our estimates on a conservative basis, our estimates for our fall sale remains conservative and the market will decide. We are aware of the recent turmoil in the financial markets however we remain committed to serving our consigners and our purchasers."
David Silcox, President, Sotheby’s Canada:
“The Canadian art market may be poised to set a few more record prices this fall, as an unprecedented number of museum-quality works of art are being offered at Sotheby’s. We expect that our committed collectors will respond enthusiastically to these offerings, driven by their uncompromising passion and appetite for works of Canadian art of the highest calibre.
“Some International art markets have experienced explosive and exponential growth over the past 5-7 years, yet Canadian art has enjoyed fairly steady and rational growth over Sotheby’s 40 years in Canada. Each of Sotheby’s sales in our varied and distinct markets is, foremost, a barometer of its own particular market and not necessarily an indicator of the global market as a whole. Twenty-one years ago, during another October, a precipitous decline in the stock market was not followed by a decline in the art market. On the contrary, the art market flourished for almost three more years.”
Rob Cowley, Vice-President, Joyner Waddington’s Canadian Fine Art:
“With regard to the market, we are optimistic regarding the upcoming season based on the contact we have had with not only our vendors but also potential bidders. That being said, as there has been limited activity within the Canadian art auction market since May, we will not have a clear idea of any effect on our market until the end of November.”
Jack Kerr-Wilson, President, Bonhams Canada:
“Naturally I am very cautious about predicting how the sale will do, as a lot can happen to the economy in the next two months. Any feed back that we have received from collectors has so far been positive, although they too are approaching the season with caution.”
Jeffrey Walker, Director of Fine Art, Walker’s Fine Art & Estate Auctioneers:
“Walker’s are optimistic that great pieces will still find eager buyers but are more cautious about the middle and entry ranges as a whole. Generally the Canadian art market prices are supported by broad-based interest from many countries. This diversity, coupled with the relative stability of the Canadian economy, gives room for optimism. The stock and commodities markets are the (big) question. Will the recent upheaval and ensuing mass media bombardment of negative news impact buyers to the point where they begin withdrawing from the market?....or will purchasers take a more selective stance? I suppose the proof will be in the soon to be revealed proverbial pudding."
Douglas Levis, President, Levis Fine Art Auctions:
“The market will probably have more sellers than buyers and there will be some bargains but also some great sales.”
Kevin King, President, Hodgins Art Auctions:
“Your crystal ball is as good as mine. I think we will be just fine. We’re trying to keep estimates realistic and reasonable.”
Overall, then, the market seems united in its concern, but confident that Canadian collectors will support what is undoubtedly, on paper, one of the strongest seasons to date to grace the podiums of Canada’s salesrooms. Will their optimism be justified, or will the Canadian market finally enter its long-awaited correction?
The next three weeks tells all!