The global economy, depending on whom you talk to, is either in a recession or about to enter a recession. The art market is nonplussed. A number of recent auction values have well surpassed estimates. That was not the case during the last global recession in 2008–2009 when the value of art auctions plummeted. But since then, the profile of art buyers and how they buy has changed. With galleries and museums closed, more buyers are flocking to online auctions.
What Is Driving Up Auction Prices?
Louis Comfort Tiffany table lamps drove the value up for several recent auctions. The rising interest in the decorative lamp treasured by many homes since their sale in the early 1900s could reflect a broadening of the art market.
In April, Tiffany Lotus and Peony lamps raised $150,000 and $125,000, respectively, in a Clarke Auction Gallery. These lamps are holding their value nicely. A few days later a Tiffany Nasturtium table lamp sold for $206,250 at a Freeman's online auction, in which 70 percent of lots sold above estimates. This surpasses a Nasturtium sale price of $134,520 in 2018. Auction houses are explaining the attractive values by a strong showing in online bidders.
Prices are faring better than in 2009 when a Tiffany Wisteria lamp fetched $602,500. Since then, a number of these elegant lamps have sold for over $1 million. The record price of $3.37 million for a Tiffany lamp was set for a Pond Lily lamp at the end of 2018 by Christie's. Other pieces of this limited edition lamp are in museums.
Higher End Deals
In other Tiffany objects, prices are likely to fall. The Tiffany stained glass windows buyer will be watching the market eagerly for opportunities. While these exquisite windows rarely come on the market, art collectors, churches and cities are more likely to sell Tiffany stained glass windows during a recession.
During the 2008 recession, the city of Duluth sold a 115-year-old Tiffany window with an American Indian theme for $1.5 million, half the appraisal value. Tiffany stained glass window buyers have picked up several deals in recent years when churches have sold Tiffany windows to raise money or following restorations. The record price paid for a Tiffany window of $1.9 million was set at a Christie's auction in 2000.
While Tiffany is but a glimpse of one small corner of the art market, the popular appeal of Tiffany lamps in online auctions reflects the opening up of the art market to more buyers.