From Albert Einstein’s notes to a record-breaking Frida Kahlo to a 6.6 million euro (US$6.79 million) triceratops — auction houses have lately seen a string of record-breaking items going under the hammer and through the roof.
Valuations are becoming hard to judge.
On Wednesday, the Einstein manuscript went for 11.3 million euros in Paris, five times its expected price.
That came just days after a storyboard for the failed 1970s film version of Dune sparked a bidding war that pushed the price 100 times above the valuation to 2.7 million euros.
Market watcher Artprice credits a transition to online sales for sparking new levels of interest, particularly in the US and Asia.
“The auction houses were very behind the times, but COVID forced them to modernize and the result is that online sales have been spectacular and have attracted a new audience,” Artprice founder Thierry Ehrmann said.
Many dynamics are changing, he said, giving the example of 30-somethings who prefer to collect art than buy their first home.
After an initial freeze as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year, online auctions exploded later in the year as millions hunted for new ways to kill time and spend money during lockdowns.
With stock markets soaring in the pandemic, the rich got significantly richer, while struggling to find ways to spend it. This has helped push the old masters to new heights. This month alone in New York, a Van Gogh went for US$71.3 million and a Kahlo self-portrait set a new record for the Mexican artist’s work at nearly US$35 million.
However, it has also created a hunger for almost anything collectable, from Michael Jordan sneakers (US$1.5 million), to an original copy of the US constitution (US$43 million) to an 800,000 euro bottle of Burgundy wine.
“At a time when many art fairs can’t happen in person and online viewing rooms are awful, auctions have become a predominant form of selling,” Anna Brady, art markets reporter for The Arts Newspaper, said on its podcast.
Brady highlighted the infusion of cash from a new source: crypto-millionaires. They have expanded from an initial focus on digital art — such as the mind-boggling US$69 million paid for a JPG file by one of its pioneers, Beeple, in March — into more traditional tastes.
Crypto “whale” Justin Sun has bought works by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol this year, and paid US$78.4 million for Alberto Giacometti’s The Nose sculpture this month.
Sun then triggered a lot of harrumphing among stuffed shirts of the art world by boasting about his purchase on Twitter — breaching their traditional codes of secrecy and discretion in a way that suggests an even more competitive market to come.
Is it all a bubble? It is a question that has been raised before, especially in the 1980s when the art market looked in danger of overheating under the pressure of a new generation of yuppies trying to flash their cash.
However, despite several cooling-off periods — including the 2008 financial crash and a sharp drop between 2015 and 2019 — the overall trend has been skyward.
Artprice says the contemporary art market has grown from US$103 million in 2000 to US$2.7 billion today.
“Buying and re-selling has become much more natural: to refine one’s collection, or following a divorce, or because our tastes have changed,” Ehrmann said.
Deloitte estimated last year that the uber-rich own US$1.45 trillion of art and collectables.
For these people, Ehrmann said, “there’s no longer a psychological barrier to paying more than a million dollars for something online.”
DISMAL OUTLOOK: A Citigroup analyst predicted firms face ‘the worst semiconductor downturn in at least a decade,’ due to inventory build and the potential of a recession Semiconductor stocks tumbled after Micron Technology Inc became the latest chipmaker to warn about slowing demand, triggering concern that the industry is heading into a painful downturn. In the US on Tuesday, the Philadelphia semiconductor index sank 4.6 percent, with all 30 members in the red, its biggest drop in about two months. In Asia, chip stocks from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) to Samsung Electronics Co, SK Hynix Inc and Tokyo Electron Ltd slumped. Investors are growing increasingly skittish as the notoriously cyclical industry is hurtling toward a prolonged slump after years of widespread shortages that led to heavy
With a tantalizing array of satay chicken, wok-fried mud crab and chilled tiger prawns, the dinner buffet at Singapore’s Grand Hyatt hotel typically sets diners back about US$70. Those on a tighter budget and with an eye on sustainability can fill a box for one-tenth of that price. Across Asia, tech start-ups are taking food otherwise destined for landfill and providing discounted meals through mobile phone apps. About one-third of food is lost or wasted every year globally, and the mountains of waste are estimated to cause 8 to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, the UN says.
MAJOR REVENUE CONTRIBUTOR: The company said that it expects revenue this year to increase annually due to an improved smart consumer electronics outlook Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) yesterday said revenue this quarter would be flat from last quarter, despite new phone models launched by key customers, as the market faces weakening demand. The iPhone assembler, based in New Taipei City’s Tucheng District (土城), said it is cautious about its business outlook, given mounting uncertainty regarding geopolitical tensions, soaring inflation and COVID-19 flare-ups, but still expects revenue this quarter to be higher than the NT$1.4 trillion (US$46.67 billion) it reported a year earlier. The forecast came as the company posted record second-quarter net profit of NT$33.29 billion, up 12 percent year-on-year from NT$29.78 billion.
Yageo Corp (國巨) yesterday said that its revenue would drop by a low single-digit percentage this quarter from a historical high last quarter, as customers and distributors are holding back demand to concentrate on inventory digestion due to flagging smartphone and notebook computer demand. The world’s biggest supplier of passive components expects to take three to six months to reduce its inventory of commoditized passive components to a normal level of 100 to 110 days, from 130 days currently. Yageo would reduce its factory utilization rate for standard passive components to about 60 percent this quarter, from about 70 percent last quarter,