Art fair prices even fairer this year

Arts Correspondent,Arifa Akbar
Thursday 15 January 2009 01:00
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Generous discounts were being offered by a host of gallery owners at the London Art Fair yesterday in an attempt to shore up the city's previously booming art market in the face of the credit crunch.

Though gallery owners denied "bargain basement" prices were being employed as a desperate measure to sell their wares, several of the 112 art galleries – a record turn out in the fair's 21-year history – admitted to having lowered their prices, and said they were more "flexible" over discounts.

Jonathan Burton, director of the fair, said he had noticed greater "negotiability" at the fair. "Prices are usually negotiated at fairs but the difference this year is that it's tougher and galleries are much more prepared to have an up-front conversation than in previous years. They will offer discounts, in some cases up to 20 per cent. In previous years, buyers would get 15 per cent if they were lucky," he said.

Conor Macklin, the director of Grosvenor, which was among the major galleries at the fair, said: "Five years ago, if I bought a picture for £100, I would be happy to sell it for £130. Two years ago, I would be unhappy if it sold for £300 because it was a crazy market. This time around, I would sell the work for £120. We are open to discounting, and though we've always done that, we'll be doing more of it now." He added that while recent shows had attracted greater numbers of people, sales had remained relatively slow.

Robin Katz, the director of his eponymous gallery, said the credit crunch had tended to encourage greater levels of caution among buyers. "There have been some casualties in terms of collectors who have lost a lot of money, but many still have money and want to spend it. But it's a bit psychological and some question whether or not they should hold off in case they get bigger and better bargains."

The annual fair, which runs until Sunday at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, is pitched at art lovers who are prepared to spend anything from £20 to £1m. It drew a record crowd of 3,756 on its opening night.

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