The Artsy Advisor Notebook: May 2024


In this series, we gather thoughts and highlights from Artsy’s in-house art experts on what they’re seeing, looking forward to, and enjoying in the art world this month.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Clare McAndrew, author of Art Basel and UBS’s annual “The Art Market” reports; Elena Soboleva, global head of online sales at David Zwirner; and Jonny Tanna, founder of London gallery Harlesden High Street, earlier this month for a webinar looking at trends in the dealer sector of the art market.

A few things stood out from our conversation:

  • Galleries need to take the long view: While gallery sales declined last year, most galleries are better off now than they were in 2019. Sales from small galleries grew last year, and a decline in sales at the very top of the market dragged down overall figures.
  • Taking the long view isn’t just about sales: Some galleries have a bad habit of assuming that their best year will be their new average performance, while prudent galleries are looking more closely at their expenses based on multi-year performance. Especially due to rising costs, profit margins have become a more important metric than gross sales.
  • Online sales continue to boom: Soboleva said half of David Zwirner’s new gallery clients are sourced online. She also noted that it’s impossible to tell how many clients who buy through a fair or in one of their galleries started their journey online. Put another way, online channels are driving at least as many—if not more—new clients for the gallery than all offline channels combined.
  • Omnichannel all the way: Many galleries, including David Zwirner, started their foray online with special programming and online exclusives. Today, McAndrew and Soboleva noted, galleries are seeing greater success and efficiency by utilizing their own online channels as well as marketplaces like Artsy as a base layer to support all of their offline activities. Soboleva added that David Zwirner drives additional sales by uploading extra inventory that they couldn’t fit into a show or fair booth.
  • Find your own way: Tanna capped off the discussion with perhaps the most important message of all—every gallery needs to find the model that works best for it. He cautioned against reading too much into press reports on other galleries or playing follow-the-leader by getting additional or larger exhibition spaces because that’s what the big galleries of yore have done. Instead, he advised that galleries should closely examine their own numbers, their programs, and what they themselves want to achieve.

Alexander Forbes, Vice President, Galleries and Fairs, New York

The mood of fairgoers, collectors, and dealers varied widely across the major New York art fairs this May. With so much on view across town, I found it helpful to evaluate the fair season through two key questions: What artwork is selling? What artwork feels fresh?

Dealers across fairs reported healthy sales, though the velocity of deals has certainly slowed as many collectors take a cautious approach. Frieze was among those to report the strongest commercial activity, which is to be expected, but many fairgoers found the experience lacking. The collectors and market insiders I spoke to reported that the fair felt tepid, uninspired—or, even, like a shopping mall. Galleries seemed to play it safe in their presentations, showing market-tested artists from their programs rather than introducing new talent.

NADA provided fresh energy during the first week of fairs, with six floors of emerging galleries showcasing a wide variety of new artists and surprise celebrity sightings from the likes of Bradley Cooper and Daniel Day-Lewis (whose son, artist Ronan Day-Lewis, was showing with D.D.D.D.). Independent showcased considered presentations from galleries, but the sales didn’t seem as robust. TEFAF rounded out the second fair week with a buoyant, celebratory mood—aided, no doubt, by their signature cascading tulips, fresh oysters, and flowing champagne during the collector preview.

Overall, some of my favorite presentations of the two weeks were found in local galleries, not fair booths. If you find yourself in New York, here are my top show recommendations across town:

Caroline Perkins, Private Sales Advisor, New York

I’m looking forward to our post-war and contemporary auction that opens for bidding on May 29th and runs until June 5th. The sale includes works by the likes of Lois Dodd, Vivian Springford, and Tracey Emin.

I’m particularly excited about the beautiful painting Great Bush (2022) by Sophie Larrimore, which was first exhibited at The Pit in Los Angeles. Great Bush uses Larrimore’s signature iconography of non-naturalistic poodles, birds, and trees rendered in bright colors. Its hand-carved frame accentuates the devotional nature of the painting, which references medieval tapestries, Indian and Persian miniature painting, Byzantine icons, Fauvism, and American textile traditions.

Larrimore’s work first appeared at auction in May 2022, when Lilac Wall (2021) sold for $37,800 at Phillips in New York—more than four times its high estimate. Just three works by the artist have come up for sale at auction; of these, Great Bush is, in my view, the most iconic example. Its $15,000–$20,000 estimate is a great price range for such a standout work.

Register to bid for Artsy’s post war and contemporary art sale here.

Laura Martin, Senior Specialist, Auctions, New York

I’m thrilled to introduce an artist whose work has captured my imagination and admiration: Spencer Shakespeare. Based in Cornwall, England, Shakespeare demonstrates a profound connection to the seaside town’s natural beauty in paintings that convey a sense of mystery and enchantment. The artist has noted in particular his connection to gardens, where the domestic gives way to the wild.

Shakespeare’s practice is marked by vivid color, contrast, and intensity. His exhibitions have included solo shows at Kersgallery in Amsterdam and group shows at the likes of Anima Mundi in St Ives, England, and Piermarq in Sydney.

Ipi Ramos Ricoy, Senior Advisor, Auctions and Private Sales, London

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