Jean-Michel Basquiat Self-Portrait, acrylic, oil, oilstick and paper collage on three hinged wooden panels,; formerly owned by Johnny Depp, sold at Christie's London a week after the referendum
My grandfather used to say not to ask a question you don’t really want to know they answer to. I imagine that recently-resigned British Prime Minister David Cameron has been wishing he’d heeded that advice.
In the weeks since the Brexit votes returned in favour of Leave, the prevailing outcome has been one of instability and uncertainty. Lacking any substantive plans for said exit, the economic, social and political implications of the referendum will take a long time to come to action.
The effect on the art market remains to be seen. How will this affect import/export laws, duties and tariffs? Will British galleries take a serious hit with the devalued pound, or, with the currency at a 30-year low, will this incentivize international business, as this week’s London auctions proved?
Sotheby’s Contemporary sales, held five days after the vote, did just fine, selling 40 of 46 lots. Included among them was a fabulous Jenny Saville—Shift, a large, square nude painting which was exhibited in the famous 1997 YBA (Young British Artists) Sensation show. The lot was a surprise smash, shattering its presale estimate of £1.5 – 2 million to realize upwards of £6.8 million.
Shift, by Jenny Saville. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s
The following evening, Christie’s Contemporary auction returned similarly favourable results, selling 98% of its lots by value. Among the star works in that sale were several Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings consigned by Johnny Depp (proving correct the old auction house adage that the “3 D’s,” death, divorce and debt are key factors to winning consignments).
Of course, two successful auctions don’t guarantee stability for the art market, or any other market for that matter. For more analysis of Brexit’s initial consequences, and a considered look at its potential new realities, read on here.