Home LifestyleArt The art market is not just about NFTs

The art market is not just about NFTs

by S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D

This year, the FIAC (Paris’s International Contemporary Art Fair) is taking place in the Grand-Palais Ephémère at the opposite end of the Champs-de-Mars park from the Eiffel Tower and is hosting 170 of the world’s most prestigious galleries until Sunday 24 October. But Jennifer Flay, the fair’s Artistic Director, has not forgotten the crisis which forced the cancellation of the 2020 edition and called into question much of the way our society (and the art market) functions. She has therefore decided to maintain an online version.

According to thierry Ehrmann, CEO and Founder of Artmarket.com and of its Artprice department: “The FIAC online may not be the main event, but this version (which has 40 additional galleries) reflects a profound change in the art world, with the coexistence of two markets: the physical one with the FIAC (and its extra-mural shows/installations including a majestic sculpture by Alexander Calder in Place Vendôme), and the other, fully online, that everyone can visit from their homes on fiac.viewingrooms.com”.

The art market is not just about NFTs…

For the last six months the art world has been super-excited about blockchain, a technology that made a sensational entry to the auction world in March 2021 with the sale of Beeple’s NFT Everydays for $69.4 million at Christie’s New York. This was followed by Pak’s NFTs at Sotheby’s and Mad Dog Jones’s NFTs at Phillips, all of which prompted massive media commentary and substantially rocked the notion of what artistic creation is and how it circulates in the early 21st century.

In its H1 2021 Art Market Report (https://www.artprice.com/artprice-reports/the-contemporary-art-market-report-2021) Artprice nevertheless point outs that public sales of NFTs only accounted for 2% of global fine art auction turnover, a niche market, divided between New York (90%) and Hong Kong (9%) and represented less than 100 lots in total during the first six months of 2021.

The traditional market for painting therefore remained 35 times larger than that of NFTs. However, in just six months of existence, the latter is already twice as prosperous as the market for photographic art works, which saw 10,000 lots sold, but only generated $66 million (half the NFT market over the same period).

Paris: cautious but not backseat

Like every autumn, the French capital hosts an extraordinary range of exhibitions, covering almost the entire history of art: from Botticelli at the Jaquemart-André Museum to Georg Baselitz and Georgia O’Keeffe at the Pompidou Center, through to the Morozov Collection at the Louis Vuitton Foundation and the newly-opened Pinault Collection at the Bourse de Commerce.

At the same time, Almine Rech and Galerie Perrotin are presenting the work of one of the most talented representatives of current French artistic creation, Claire Tabouret. Two other galleries, Lévy Gorvy and Nathalie Obadia, are showing work by the African-American artist Mickalene Thomas.

Top 3 living French artists by auction turnover (H1 2021)

1 – Pierre Soulages (1919): $30,680,000

2 – Claire Tabouret (1981): $3,011,000

3 – Robert Combas (1957): $2,820 000

Paris wants to be eclectic and forward-looking as reflected in the award this year of the Marcel Duchamp Prize (which Artprice is very proud to support) to Lili Reynaud Dewar. Meanwhile, the 4th International Digital Arts Biennial is currently taking place at Centquatre-Paris.

Still behind London

The Parisian art market hopes to benefit from Brexit and a number of prominent galleries like Lévy Gorvy and David Zwirner have opened Parisian outlets in anticipation of a certain isolation of the UK market and Larry Gagosian is inaugurating a third space in the French capital. But since the UK’s official exit from the EU, the balance between the two capitals has not changed that much.

During Frieze Week high-quality works by Basquiat, Richter and Hockney were successfully auctioned in London bringing a measure of reassurance to the local market. And the reappearance of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon, re-baptized Love is in the bin (the one that partially self-destructed in 2018 after selling for $1.4 million) generated a spectacular ‘event’, and a very spectacular result at $25.4 million.

In Paris, no lot offered by Christie’s or Sotheby’s is expected to reach such heights during the FIAC, despite the sale of some excellent Avant-Garde pieces by Magritte, Manet and Picabia, among others… So while the galleries show the best Contemporary creations at FIAC and in their respective outlets, the auction houses continue reminding us that Paris was long the artistic capital of the world…

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