ArtForecaster Player Profile | Maya Mikelsone

Maya Mikelson

Paris, France

Joined: April 2017
Skill Level 9: Art Market Analyst
Number of forecasts: 1,185
ArtForecaster Achievements in 2019:
Seasonal Winner Expert League 2018/2019
1st Place – Mixed Auction ArtForecaster Competition May/June 2019
2nd Place – Grand Slam ArtForecaster Competition London – June 2019
3rd Place – Grand Slam ArtForecaster Competition New York – May 2019
1st Place – ArtForecaster Spring Competition 2019 – April 2019
2nd Place – Grand Slam ArtForecaster Competition London – March 2019


Some of you may not know that ArtTactic is the first art market research company to use crowd-sourcing as the main tool for collecting qualitative and quantitative data on the art market. From the outset, ArtTactic’s goal was to build a global art market intelligence network of thousands of knowledgeable, experienced, and talented individuals. The launch of ArtForecaster in 2015, has helped us surpass that goal by further expanding our crowd sourcing initiatives and growing the pool of innovative and new art market data. But, what exactly is ArtTactic Forecaster?


ArtTactic Forecaster (or colloquially, Forecaster) is a platform developed internally by ArtTactic which runs weekly predictive competitions based on lots coming up at auctions around the world. The competitions attract professionals from the auction industry, art advisors, art appraisers, dealers and collectors. The Top 100 most active players provided an aggregate of 25,000 forecasts on individual fine art objects in the last 12 months alone. One of those top players is Maya Mikelsone who is an art curator and an art advisor based in Paris. Maya holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy of Art from the University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne as well as a certificate of curatorial training from Ecole du Magasin, Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble. Prior to her current position, she worked in several contemporary art galleries including, Foundation Cartier pour l’art Contemporain and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Bordeaux. Maya also lectures at the American University of Paris.


We recently spoke with Maya to ask her a bit more about her involvement in the art market and why she is motivated to play Forecaster. She even shared some helpful tips for anyone who wants to try it out themselves.


ArtTactic (AT): Tell us about yourself, your journey into the art market and your business.

Maya Mikelsone (MM): I was preparing myself to become an art curator but during my last semester of my Master’s in Philosophy of Art at Sorbonne I chose to do an internship at the legendary Yvon Lambert gallery where I discovered my passion for the art market. Afterwards, I continued to work as a curator in art institutions but I was certain that it’s not for me. Since then it’s already been 6 years, and now I mainly focus on private collections and actively working in art market.


AT: What are your future plans for the business?

MM: To continue my ‘haute couture’ way of working with my clients. Meaning, I prefer a very individual approach based on trust and discreetness. I have very different clients which makes what I do day-to-day vary—from research, to traveling around the world to find a particular work of art.


AT: How do you think the art market needs to adapt to the new/ next generation of collectors and artists?

MM: It needs to be more open to new collectors as it is still exclusive for only a small circle of established clients and not yet accessible for young collectors. Instagram is an impressive tool of communication and a way to display artists’ work. It’s also useful for collectors in that they can communicate internationally with ease.


AT: What role does technology play in your day-to-day work in the art market?

MM: Coming back again to Instagram, I start my day by opening my Instagram. Then, emails come after…It is almost like an online gallery.


AT: What technology do you believe could have a major/ disruptive impact on the art market?

MM: In the long term, blockchain will have an impact on the art market. It will make it more transparent and easier to operate.


AT: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the art market over the next 10 years?

MM: A new generation of collectors and new markets. It will become more global thanks to technologies and art fairs.


AT: What do you see as the biggest challenges for the art market over the next 10 years?

MM: The art market is a very emotional market and it is influenced greatly by uncertainty, particularly political. The world in 10 years will be different, but it’s hard to predict in what way.


AT: What motivates you to play Forecaster?

MM: It’s a combination of playful spirit, knowledge of the art market and curiosity to feel the pulse of the art market in different parts of the world. I am following all major Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary auction sales results.


AT: Any forecasting tips for people who wants to try it out?

MM: Trust your intuition based on knowledge.


Quick fire:

Favourite artist of all time: I can’t choose between two so, Frank Stella and Cy Twombly.

Favourite NextGen artist (artist under 35 years old): Many! Robin F. Williams, Oli Epp, Sarah Slappey, Fabian Treiber to name just few.

Geographical art market with the most potential over the next 5 years: Asia and Southeast Asia

Top gallery exhibition this year: Artur Lescher at Almine Rech, Paris

Top museum exhibition this year: Jean-Michel Basquiat at Fondation Louis Vuitton


Feeling competitive ahead of this Autumn’s auction sales? You can play too at

Starstruck: The Impact of the A-Lister

Image courtesy of Christie’s. The pre-sale exhibition of the George Michael Collection at King Street saw thousands of George Michael fans © Christie’s 2019


‘Sting and Trudie Styler to auction art collection; single works could fetch up to £500,000’

‘Wham! George Michael’s Art Collection Fetches $12.3 Million at Christie’s London’

‘David Bowie’s personal art collection sells for £33 million at London auction’


These headlines boast the extraordinary amounts of money that celebrities can rein in for auction houses. To be exact, from 2016 to the first half of 2019, single owner collection sales totaled $3,56 billion across Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips. This being 9.34% of total sales for all three houses. Auction-buzz usually forms around one or two significant pieces up for sale. But when celebrity collections go under the hammer at auction, there’s a different phenomenon that occurs. Every piece seems bound by their noteworthy ownership. Of course, provenance is a vital part of the matrix of factors that combine to decide an artwork’s value. But how is this impacted when a celebrity has owned the piece? Is there a celebrity premium?


The George Michael Collection Evening Auction on the 14th of March 2019 was a major sale for Christie’s London. As the headline reads, this single owner collection sale brought in just over $12.3 million for charity, beating its pre-sale high estimate of $11.9 million. Several works on offer broke artist records which suggested there might in fact be a ‘George Michael premium’. Harland Miller’s fictional book cover Incurable Romantic Seeks Dirty Filthy Whore (2007) sold for $314,527, two times more than Miller’s previous auction record of $93,485 (£75,000) for I am the one I’ve been waiting for (2013) achieved in 2015. Jim Lambie’s CarelessWhisper (2009), a portrait of Michael, sold for $231,757, exceeding its high estimate of $22,436 (£18,000) by almost ten times. Lambie’s previous record at auction was achieved in 2013 at $113,783 (£91,250). Finally, Angus Fairhurst’s A Couple of Differences Between Thinking and Feeling II sold for $125,811, almost three times more than the artist’s previous auction record of $34,349 (£27,500) in 2018 for a similar work. Considering just these three lots, there was a significant price premium paid for works in the George Michael Collection. It also seems that the sale could have reignited interest in artist markets that may have gone stale in the past four to six years.


The pull of celebrity auctions is undeniable. Whether it be an art world celebrity like the Rockefellers or a superstar like David Bowie, celebrity branded auctions have proven to pay off majorly for auction houses. In an increasingly competitive secondary market, auction houses will likely continue to use single owner collection sales as a branding and marketing strategy. It is also a way to attract new buyer pools outside the traditional art world client base. For the George Michael Collection, thousands of fans flocked to the London exhibition to see the art and enjoy artifacts from the musician’s career. This generated a further £250,000 in charity proceeds through the purchase of limited edition catalogues and tote bags. Being able to share a collection with a global audience inherently attracts more attention to the sale and ultimately, creates more bids. As Christie’s Paola Saracino Fendi said in a podcast with the Art Newspaper, “a big name always creates excitement”. Fendi continued to say that people involve themselves in this type of sale because they were fans of the celebrity. This differentiates the buyers because they’re not concerned about who the artist is, what their market is like, or whether it will be a smart investment – which, in turn, makes for an exciting auction environment (paraphrased).


So, what celebrity auction will be next? And who will break the single owner collection sales record? My bet is on Sir Elton John or Madonna.

Guarantees Swoop into the Old Masters Market

Image courtesy of Sotheby’s. Handler presenting Lot 8, Johann Liss (1595-1631) The Temptation of Saint Mary Magdalene ©Sotheby’s 2019


Financial guarantees—the art market’s hybrid of hedging risk and rolling the dice—are now finding their way into Old Master auction sales. As we wrote in our inaugural Auction Guarantee Analysis, guarantees are playing an increasingly important role at the top end of the Post-War & Contemporary art market, with guarantees frequently accounting for 50-60% of the total estimated value. While this phenomenon has become commonplace for Post-War & Contemporary sales, and even Impressionist and Modern sales, the Old Master sector is considerably new territory for financial guarantees.


Simply put, guarantees offer a high level of certainty (and security) for both the auction house and the seller. This agreement allows the auction house to secure a consignment and the seller receives a minimum price, regardless of the final hammer. Guarantees are a neon-sign of the increasing financialization of the market. But what does this mean for the Old Master market in particular?


In London last week, Sotheby’s and Christie’s held their Old Masters Evening sales on Wednesday the 3rd and Thursday the 4th of July, respectively. Together, the two houses brought in a sales total of £59,880,000 (excluding buyer’s premium) with 87 lots on offer, with sales total down 2% from last July. However, looking at Sotheby’s and Christie’s independently, one can see the major discrepancy in sales totals: £47,675,000 for Sotheby’s and £12,205,000 for Christie’s, despite Sotheby’s having fewer lots on offer (37 compared to Christie’s 50).


There is no doubt that guarantees provided Sotheby’s with an added boost this season with a 35.2% increase in year-on-year sales. The July 2019 Evening sale was practically pre-sold for Sotheby’s, with 11 of 37 lots guaranteed. These 11 lots were estimated to bring in £28.5 million and ultimately realized a total hammer price of £29.53 million, or 62% of the sales value. Sotheby’s nearly doubled its offering of guaranteed lots in 2019 compared to last year’s July Evening sale, where 6 guaranteed lots were on offer with a total average estimate of £3.6 million. These lots realized a collective £5.79 million hammer price (excluding buyer’s premium), making up only 16% of the total sales value.


Christie’s, on the other hand, decreased their guaranteed lot offering by half compared to last year. In 2018, 4 guaranteed lots were offered at an estimated average total sales value of £1.9 million and realized a total hammer price of £4.38 million (excluding buyer’s premium). This year, the 2 lots with guarantees were estimated to sell at an average total of £550,000 and realized a disappointing £360,000 total hammer price (excluding buyer’s premium).


The guarantee “status” of the Old Masters market is promising as it shows confidence in the sector like never before. Perhaps, the pendulum is swinging back towards the Old Masters market after hovering around the Post-War & Contemporary market for some time. This being substantiated by the decrease in guarantees and sales totals in Post-War & Contemporary sales this past June. It also shows signs of new opportunities for buyers and sellers, and as we explained in our Summer 2019 Old Master Paintings Report, recent art discoveries have pumped new life into the Old Masters market and auction houses are consciously re-branding Old Master weeks with a 21st century spin. All things considered, it seems the art market really is out with the new.


Photo Market 2018: Three key takeaways

Compared to other auction markets, the photography market seems to persist as an enigmatic entity that is stunted by its reproducibility of medium and resulting inability to reach the significant hammer prices that other auction markets enjoy. ArtTactic’s Photography Auction Market Analysis 2018 looks at this complex market highlighting last year’s trends and developments. Here are 3 key takeaways from the report that begin to peel back the curtain on this less understood market.


1. New report methodology reveals almost half of photography sales value came through contemporary day and evening sales between 2015 and 2018: This year, and moving forward, ArtTactic has decided to include not only photography dedicated sales in its market analysis report, but also photography sales in Post-War & Contemporary day and evening sales channels. Why? Peter Gerdman, Head of Market Analysis and Products at ArtTactic, explains that, “Historically, we looked only at photography dedicated sales, but the issue with that approach is that you only get one small snapshot of the market. By introducing additional components and sales channels you get a wider view of the photography market as a whole.” He continues, “For example, there are artists, like Richard Prince and Wolfgang Tillmans, whose works primarily sell in Post-War & Contemporary sales. These artists cater to a specific type of collector who are predominantly involved in that sector of the market as opposed to the traditional photography market. In the 2017 report we didn’t see that.”


2. Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, and Wolfgang Tillmans generated 93% of their sales value through the Post-War & Contemporary Evening and Day sales. The top 5 artists by sales value in 2018 were sold primarily through Post-War & Contemporary evening sale and day sales, rather than dedicated photography sales – Richard Prince was sold exclusively through Post-War & Contemporary channels. Irving Penn, however, sold exclusively through dedicated photography sales. Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, and Wolfgang Tillmans straddled both auction sales channels with the majority of sales being made through Post-War & Contemporary art channels. Outside of the top 5 selling artists by value, but still within the top 10, artists sold primarily through dedicated photography sales. This included Robert Mapplethorpe, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, and Helmut Newton.

It is interesting to consider the sales channels through which artists are selling as they play a role in understanding the layered structure of the photography market and how they also change the perceptions of value for a photographic work. For example, when a photograph is placed in a Post-War & Contemporary sale does this change its perceived economic and cultural value? If we look at two artists that frequently straddle both Post-War & Contemporary day sales and dedicated photography sales, Hiroshi Sugimoto sold for an average price of $32,343 in photography dedicated sales versus $59,245 for Post-War & Contemporary day sales from 2015 to 2018. Thomas Struth sold for an average price of $58,797 in dedicated photography sales compared to an average price of $82,634 in Post-War & Contemporary day sales during the same period. These average price differences are likely to be influenced by edition numbers and size of the artwork, however this still reveals something about the auction hierarchy and the value associated with selling through different auction sales channels.


3. The photography market is not in decline, rather it is taking a breather after an exceptional year in 2017. The photography market fell 26.5% in 2018. Total photography sales at the three major houses (Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips) amounted to $62.3 million in 2018 which is down considerably from $84.8 million in 2017. The number of lots offered was also 11.9% lower than 2017.

Fingers point to Christie’s as the main contributor to the overall decline in photography sales in 2018. The significant drop in photography sales from the auction house (after a record season in 2017) can be attributed to three factors: firstly, a 79% drop in sales of photography in their Post-War & Contemporary Evening and Day auctions from 2017 to 2018. Secondly, a 34% drop in sales in the dedicated photography sales for the same period and finally, a rescheduling of the Masterpieces of Design & Photography Auction from October 2018 to March 2019.

Although photography sales weakened in the last 12 months, it was still 9% higher than in 2016 and 20% higher than in 2015, so rather than being a sign of a market in turmoil, it looks like it’s just catching its breath.


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