A Few Thoughts
Reviewing our sales from 2018, fine art collectors are eagerly acquiring rare artwork of outstanding quality. The market for classic works of art continues to defy trends and casual speculation. Like fashion, the majority of artwork goes out of style as quickly as it becomes popular. Truly great art manifest itself through time and the enjoyment in ownership transcends purely monetary interests, sign value or simple aesthetics.
In the international public market, the highest prices paid in 2018 were for classics. Modigliani's Nu Couché, 1917 sold for U.S. $157 million, Picasso's Fillette a la Corbeille Fleurie, 1905 for U.S. $115 million, and more than U.S. $90 million was paid for Edward Hopper's 1929 painting, Chop Suey. This followed a year in which Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, painted circa 1500, sold for over U.S. $450 million. In the Canadian art market, the highest prices remain those paid for J.W. Morrice paintings of the late 19th and early 20th century, Lawren Harris paintings of the 1920s, and Riopelle and Borduas works painted in the 1950s. These fall well within our definition of "classics".
As in most industries, the internet continues to change the art world. We are not only a business with galleries in Montreal and Toronto but one that can reach buyers and sellers anywhere and anytime. Our market is now decidedly international. We regularly hear that, "people won't buy art on the internet." We also recall that not long ago we were told that, "nobody will buy clothes on the internet". We are neither the first nor the only art gallery to believe that the online market will play a critical role in the future of our business. I encourage you to read Craig's elaboration on our future plans. The question is not whether we will continue to pursue the internet as a viewing platform for the convenience of today's audience but how we will optimize it to that effect.
In June of 2018 a judge ruled that officials had used overly broad arguments to deny an export permit for a painting by French artist Gustave Caillebotte. In his decision the judge delivered a history lesson on the purpose of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. His ruling required that justification to deny an export permit be consistent with the original intent of the Act. This was a welcome decision for Canadian businesses that export works of art and for people who will now find Canadian art a more attractive investment. We acknowledge that the ruling impacts donations, and that some feel this need be addressed. We might advocate that it be addressed in separate legislation, rather than remain a side effect export regulations. Our gallery continues to oppose existing export regulations as they apply to original works of art. Canadian heritage in our field is already largely protected by the existing and substantial public holdings.
In 2019 we are celebrating our family’s 70th year in the art business. We shall carry on our tradition of building collections of the highest quality, offering sellers of the finest, high value works of art the most financially efficient terms. We have already acquired a superb selection of fine art to offer in 2019, with more on the horizon. If you are either buyers or sellers of important works of art, we encourage you to contact us directly.