The Rise of the Dealer
By Clanci Jo Conover
With Asia Week asserting itself as a cultural staple in New York, Asian Art and Antiques have garnered increasing attention in the art world. Recent exhibitions across the city like the Guggenheim’s past show Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World and the Metropolitan’s Crowns of Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal have helped to promote a renewed interest in the region’s arts. Auction houses boast a high volume of available lots during Asia Week, but art galleries are prevailing as the venue of choice for many collectors. The ability of the gallery to decisively choose which pieces to include in Asia Week sales allows for only the most refined pieces amidst a turbulent world market.
If we look back to 2016, total auction sales of Ancient Art in the U.S. dropped by 9.7%, causing the antique and ancient art markets to struggle for attention in the New York art scene.
These reportedly low sales of antiques at auction can partly be attributed to the art dealer’s successful takeover of the market, counting for the majority of global art sales. The dealer has certain privileges that the auction house does not – namely control over a set price and the ability to decide which works/artists to represent, giving the dealer obvious appeal to those buyers that prefer discretion and reliability.
The depression of the Asian (and Ancient) art markets, however, was short lived. In 2017, Asian Art saw an impressive spike in numbers. During Spring 2016, New York Asia Week participants (auction houses) drew in a total of $130 million in sales, whereas in 2017 the world record was set for highest selling piece of Indian artwork at auction and total sales amounted to $424 million. Many buyers that drove these sales were visitors from mainland China and Hong Kong, indicating that the slowed growth in Chinese markets from the previous year had much to do with the lacking sales volume.
Alongside these market trends, Indian and Himalayan art are clearly commanding a greater respect for their unique attention to detail, stunning imagery, and symbolic meanings that Kapoor Galleries have been privy to for decades. Congruently, the rise of the dealer grows out of their ability to remain the top choice for buyers to acquire these valued works of art, setting a professional standard for the ever developing world of art.