Anyone looking for ominous signs of a coming market blowout might want to keep a close eye on the art world, where auctions have been luring wealthy customers from emerging markets and smashing sales records by wide margins.
Investors, collectors and dealers forked out nearly $1.2-billion (U.S.) last week – far above industry expectations – for a handful of illustrious names at the fall contemporary art auctions in New York. A 1969 tryptych by late British artist Francis Bacon fetched the top price – a staggering $142.2-million, way beyond its pre-sale estimate of $85-million. Bidding on an Andy Warhol painting topped out at $105.4-million, another record. And famous living artists aren’t doing badly either. A colourful sculpture by Jeff Koons went for $58.4-million, the largest sum ever paid at auction for work by someone still breathing. “For a moment last night, I thought I was in the commodities market,” one collector told Bloomberg after an auction at Christie’s.