Crispian Riley-Smith Fine Art

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Where Is The Market Going?

Galleries Magazine July 2008


To answer the question where is the drawings market going in the next 5-10 years it is relevant to examine what has happened in the last 20 years. When I started at Sotheby’s in 1989 and then Phillips valuing pictures involved looking up descriptions in the various volumes of the ASI (Art Sales Index), plus card indexes. A good visual memory and experience from colleagues were invaluable. For me the largest change has been the internet, now anyone can look up prices and be their own expert. This is an excellent tool, though without the experience to make judgements over the information this can be misleading. However I do see the significance of the internet as a source for market information growing. Around 15-20 years ago there were around six regular specialist auctions a year devoted solely to drawings from the 15th to the early 19th centuries. Now there are two.

The number of specialist auctions has contracted, partly because there is less material around, but also because any auction house is confident they can sell because of the net. The material is spread around and the buyer must look far and wide to find the material. You only need to look at the sophistication of some of the websites to see how these businesses see the net. Also the importance of the specialist fair has grown, since clients are time poor. The development of the Salon du Dessin in Paris during March in the last 15 years has been enormous, also Master Drawings London during July, now in its eighth year and Master Drawings New York in its third.