Art prices have continued to climb since the last drop in the early to mid 1990s and the investment capital required to be a major player in the market these days is at its highest. Yet, collectors are collecting nonetheless, thankfully, and art fairs continue to be the hot locations for purchasing. Until recently, contemporary art dealers have held the sole spots at art fairs. New developments in the art market, however, suggest that the heavy hitting auction houses are moving in on this last untouched dealer-only territory, and dealers are not pleased. The Art Newspaper reports that Christie’s and Sotheby’s both had booths at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht last March.
Further moves have been made, as well, leaving art dealers nervous that the auction houses are poaching on them a bit too closely this time. In another audacious maneuver, Christie’s recently purchased contemporary art gallery Haunch of Venison, gaining further access to at least two other contemporary fairs Frieze and the Armory Show this year.Once upon a time, these two sectors of the art market, the dealer and the auction house, used to cohabitate happily (sale rooms are now increasingly being occupied by collectors), in a sort of symbiotic relationship to balance the market’s need of supply and demand. With these new developments, it is undeniable that the market has indeed changed and the art fairs have been opened allowing the auction houses to step in and compete where the dealers once thrived alone. Through their reputable names, extensive client lists and international allure, the duopoloy of auction houses have left dealer’s in competition with TWO powerful bodies. Art fairs, for the time being, remain a strength for dealers, as the element of bringing top notch collectorship to one centralized area creates a similar ‘get it now before it is gone’ effect that auctions possess; though, this new aspect of the art market needs to be watched closely.