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Art market hopeful despite recession

TWO YEARS after auction houses world-wide achieved a turnover of pounds 2.7bn, the figure for 1991-92 has been reduced to just pounds 656m, according to figures published yesterday by the Art Sales Index, in its annual summary of the auction season.

However, despite the slump, the ASI maintains that, judging from 1,800 sales held by 320 auctioneers in 24 countries, the recession in the art market is not quite as bad as everyone thinks.

It points out that pictures worth pounds 91.1m sold at prices above pounds 1m, representing some 14 per cent of the market's total turnover.

Richard Hislop of ASI said: 'The 1991-92 season, therefore, could not be described as a complete disaster.

'Overall figures are down from two seasons ago - 75 per cent in terms of value and 33 per cent in terms of numbers.

'But there must be clever collectors out and about who are keeping a close eye on auction catalogues and are content with obtaining lesser works at more than lesser prices,' he said.

The Art Sales Index summary notes that several artists, among them Richard Dadd and Diego Rivera, topped pounds 1m for the first time.

Of some 3,000 artists who made their auction debut during the past season, 350 fetched more than pounds 10,000.

Mr Hislop said: 'The fact that fresh names appear is indicative that there is good money available for good works and that sellers are not afraid to venture into the market.'