Old Masters Experience a Renaissance

By Mary Ahearn

June 29, 2018

Art Fair NewsArt World News

Old Masters Experience a Renaissance

Peter Paul Rubens, Lot and His Daughters (c. 1613-14). Oil on canvas. From a distinguished private collection. Sold for £44,882,500 at Old Master Evening Sale on 7 July 2016 at Christie’s London. Image courtesy of Christie’s.




“Younger Old Masters tradesmen are entering galleries, museums, dealerships and auction houses, and they are bringing with them ideas and strategies on how to reach a younger demographic of visitors, clients, and collectors.”



Recent years have seen Old Masters take a backseat to other collecting categories, such as Contemporary art and Post-War and Impressionist art. While Old Masters have always been revered for their timeless beauty and historical importance, the Old Masters market has struggled to attract both the interest, and the pocketbooks, of collectors. In the last few years, however, a noticeable shift has occurred, and the Old Masters market is beginning to experience a renaissance of its own. The market is reinventing itself before our eyes as dealers, galleries, and auction houses discover ways to engage new audiences with these masterpieces. ArtTactic, in collaboration with London Art Week, opening Friday June 29, presents the first Old Master Paintings Market Report, which provides new analyses of the most exciting developments in the Old Masters market.


The report identifies three key trends emerging in the market, starting with the recent influx of younger dealers. Younger Old Masters tradesmen are entering galleries, museums, dealerships and auction houses, and they are bringing with them ideas and strategies on how to reach a younger demographic of visitors, clients, and collectors. Dr. Holly Dorkin, Associate Director at Dickinson Gallery in London, comments on the significance of this shift: “Due to the fact that the Old Masters are very dependent on scholarship, it can take more time for the next generation to become influential and exercise new ideas.”


Dickinson is not the only one enjoying the ideas and perspectives that young leaders are bringing to the table. Jorge Coll and Nicolas Cortes of Colnaghi are determined to “inject new blood into the world of Old Masters”. Coll and Cortes are determined to create a new community for a younger generation of collectors through more frequent social gatherings, research, outreach, and education. The website of the Colnaghi Foundation boldly states: “Old Masters for a New Generation”.


The market is not only attempting to attract younger buyers, but a wider audience in general. However, the task of revealing the beauty within a sometimes-impenetrable Old Masters painting to a less specialized audience is not an easy one. Auction houses are stirring up interest in Old Masters using a variety of strategies, from hosting networking events for young collectors to initiating collaborations with well-known fashion brands. Sotheby’s collaborated with Victoria Beckham’s fashion brand to display some of the Old Masters in the upcoming July 4 sale in her Dover street store. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have also recently partnered with interior designers in order to demonstrate the successful marriage of Old Master paintings with modern interior design.



Old Masters Experience a Renaissance ArtTactic


The third and final trend identified is the growing interest of collectors from the Far, Near, and Middle East. Both the purchase of Salvator Mundi for the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the unveiling of the Leiden Collection have given Old Masters unexpected audiences around the world. When questioned about the largest market opportunities of the coming year in an anonymous survey, 40% of dealers and gallerists specifically mentioned new clients from the Far, Near and Middle East. Increased sales from international clients could reinvigorate the market in an unprecedented way.


Overall, the future of Old Master paintings looks bright. 63% of Old Master paintings dealers surveyed report an increase in sales in the first half of 2018. Meanwhile, Sotheby’s and Christie’s started the season strong with their sales in New York on 1 February and 19 April respectively, raising a total of $69.7 million (excluding buyer’s premium), which is up an incredible 38% from 2017. The next round of London sales looks promising, with Sotheby’s evening sale on 4 July and Christie’s on 5 July. Auction houses and galleries seem to have made room at the table for the next generation of collectors. The question is – will they show up?



For a more in-depth analysis, read ArtTactic’s Old Master Paintings Market Report, created in collaboration with London Art Week.