Contemporary art in the west will act as a safe haven

Philippe Segalot : art consultant
With the world around us full of doubt, it seems the art market in general, and the contemporary art market in particular, are stronger than anybody would imagine. It appears that the fear in other markets and world economies makes art feel like a safe tangible asset. The confidence is still there.

I tell my clients, “You will have to compete to get the best works,” and the success of the top pieces at last November’s contemporary sales proved that. At the same time, you have to be cautious, which means being more selective than ever.
The key in our business is access to the work. Once you have a great object, finding a buyer is not the most difficult part. Also you need to assure potential sellers you can get the best possible price for their property. We don’t keep inventory; we’re just looking for works for our clients.

After the financial crises, at the end of 2008 and through 2009, private dealers were preferable to auctions. A lot of works came to us or to other private dealers, especially after the auction houses dropped the idea of guaranteeing them. Consignors, for understandable reasons, started to be very careful about bringing works to auction. That lasted for 18 months or so, until Giacometti’s Walking Man sold for $100 million at Sotheby’s London in February 2010. That sent out a signal that auctions could produce very strong prices again.