Crafting Sales

A Lean Spring

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Art dealers are shifting to Brussels as they wrestle with the bureaucracy and costs associated with the German Cultural Heritage Law.

  • Facts


    • The German art market makes up 2 percent of the world market.
    • Most major German auction houses have experienced weaker sales at this year’s spring auctions compared to last year.
    • One of the problems is that collectors have become reluctant to sell their works, creating a shortage.
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77476391 art auctioneers dpa
Art auction houses like Grisebach must navigate ways to work with – or around – tough conditions for art dealers. Source: dpa

The German art market is suffering. Judging by the supply at German spring auctions, the spring season will be a lean one marked with a lack of important works and a significant decline in supply and sales. The numbers indicate a season of curbed growth as art collectors look elsewhere and the German art market, which makes up 2 percent of the world market, comes to term with new laws that put the onus on the sellers to ensure a piece of art didn’t illegally pass through the hands of Nazis.

The latest numbers don’t paint a rosy picture. The Grisebach auction house sold about €19 million ($21 million) worth of works in last year’s June auctions. This year, they estimate total sales in the coming auctions at €16 million. Sales in last fall’s anniversary auction, which included many top lots, totaled €34 million. Meanwhile, June auctions will account for an estimated €5 million of total sales, compared to €7.9 million last spring. Lempertz sold works of modern and contemporary art for €16.5 million last June. In comparison, this year’s projected sales for the same time period is about €7.6 million.

Robert Ketterer Auctions brought in €17 million at auctions of modern and postwar art in June 2016. In this case, the contrast to 2017 projected sales of €15 million in June is relatively small. At Van Ham, the spring 2016 auction of contemporary and modern art was one of the strongest to date, with total sales of €8.1 million. According to the current limits, the auction house’s May 31 auction will bring in an estimated €6 million.

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