The turbulent relationship between art sales and presidential elections

The art industry has a history of getting antsy when it comes to US federal elections, and the impending Trump presidency has even the richest on their toes.

Reporter: Anisha Chowdhury | Sub-Editor: Emily Fortune

Courtesy of

Monet’s ‘Haystack’ is now worth £35 million | (Web Exhibits)

The declining economic climate and rising tax rates make it no surprise that art prices have been falling rapidly. Buyers around the world have begun taking notice, and are starting to get more particular with the work they buy than ever before.

The year 2015 proved a lucrative one for New York auctioneers Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The Christie’s Impressionist sale featured Monet’s Haystack series, which sold for $12 million (£10 million)  in 1999 — it’s now valued at $45 million (£35 million).

Modigliani joined the nine-figure club with Nu couché (Reclining Nude), selling at $170.4 million (£136 million), making it the second most expensive piece to have been sold at auction in history.

Courtesy of The Met Museum

Modigliani’s ‘Nu couché’ | (The Met Museum)

After art prices rose for several years, they fell rapidly in 2008, when President Obama beat Republican nominee John McCain, and the world was hit by the credit crunch. This, in turn, forced art prices to drop 21% in nine months, according to Artprice.

As any art historian will tell you, selling during or immediately after a presidential election is a risky move.

True to form, the 2016 US election had the art world on the edge of their seats, and prompted art owners to hold onto their works tighter, while buyers hid their wallets from plain view.

Days on from the election result, the dollar has already dropped in value, providing added incentive for those looking to make the best of a bad situation and snap up a bargain.

Jonathan Horowitz’s satirical piece, “Obama ’08” is set to be one of his most popular works at auction yet, with an estimated value between $100,000-150,000 (£80,000-119,000), according to Christie’s.

The piece features replicas of all the presidential portraits in chronological order — Trump pending.

Unlike “political art”, it doesn’t assert a specific political position, opening up its market to a range of buyers at a time where contemporary satirical work is proving a popular choice.

Overall, the industry is staying true to its history in proving to be a difficult market to navigate following the presidential election — and especially one of this multitude.

Courtesy of Christie's, New York

Jonathan Horowitz’s ‘Obama 08’ | (Christie’s)



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