With auction sales in 2014 reaching a new historic high, and with sales of Post-War and Contemporary art up 34% from 2013, can the current art boom last? Based on preliminary results from the ArtTactic US & European Confidence Survey this month (a survey of 140 art collectors, dealers and auction houses), I have outlined some broad trends and crowd predictions for the first half of 2015.

When will the bears start catching up with the bulls? The recent survey readings show that art market experts are less positive about the 6-month outlook for the US & European contemporary art market, which could signal that the market is about to hit a growth ceiling. The majority, 65% of the experts believe the contemporary art market sales will level out this year, although 35% believe the market has further upside potential. So far, no one expects an art market correction within the first half of 2015, which might come as a relief.


Weaker economic growth is the biggest risk to the art market this year, although the wealthy is not likely to stop buying art anytime soon: Stagnant growth in Europe and increasing political risk have had a dampening effect on experts' confidence in the economy, which has dropped 23% in the last 6 months. Although weaker economic growth might lead to slower art sales in the mid- to lower price segments, the ultra-wealthy is expected to continue their trophy hunting at the top end of the market. This is supported by the fact that 73% of the experts are positive to the $1 million + segment. However, the higher end of the middle-market could rekindle as buyers are picking lower-hanging fruits in the hope that these artists will be promoted to the millionaire league. Expect another year with new auction records.

Boom and gloom in emerging art markets: Latin American auction sales ended 2014 with the second highest sale since 2008, after struggling to gain any traction in the last 5 years. Despite a slowdown in the Brazilian art market, Mexican and Colombian artists have seen rising demand in 2014, we expect this to continue. Another victim of the 2009 art market collapse was the Indian art market, but auction sales in the last two years are showing positive signs of a broad based recovery. The Russian art market, however, ran into serious problems before Christmas. Falling Russian ruble and western sanctions have taken its toll on the market, and 82% of the polled experts believe the Russian art market will go down further this year. For those contrarians out there, this might be the time to start looking for bargains.


Winner's curse? Christie's Post-War and Contemporary auction sales leapfrogged Sotheby's in 2014 (although profitability might not). The traditional equilibrium between the auction houses' market share was shattered last year and the damage could take some time to heal. 78% of the ArtTactic forecasters polled believe Christie's will continue their lead in 2015. However, the recent CEO changes at Christie's could signal that the market share grabbing could have come at a high price. We expect the gap between the two auction houses to narrow in 2015.


Artist bubbles: Art 'flipping' became the buzz word in 2014. Young artists were propelled from primary to auction market at lightening speed, boosted by celebrity hype and social media, a strategy which seem to have shortened the artists' journey to the auction market by approximately 10 years. However, many of these markets are already showing signs of running out of steam and are putting the longevity of these artists' career at risk. However, triple-digit returns will always be attractive to speculators, which mean that the game is unlikely to stop anytime soon.

However, as one art collector said: "some parts of the art market have become a fantasy, an Alice in Wonderland, and everyone seems to be falling down the rabbit hole. The question is, when will they wake up and realise?"

The full ArtTactic US & European Art Market Confidence Report will be published on the 6th February 2015. Check out www.arttactic.com for updates on new research.

/Anders Petterson