— When will prices rise again in our painting market?
— Is it good to sell paintings for today's money or is it better to keep it?
— And how much time do you advise to wait?

In response, it’s easier to wave your hand:

— Tell me first, when will the elections begin on an adversarial basis?
— And after what time do you expect the start of economic reforms and business liberalization?
— And why, in your opinion, have they just changed the constitution?

Any meaningful price forecast is an infernal regression model. Multifactorial and merciless. Formula. It involves economics, foreign-domestic policy, “slander against the veteran,” the availability of ventilation devices, the arrests of returning businessmen, and many other things, including the mechanical strength of the doors of the opposition.

Nevertheless, some ideas, forecasts, expectations can be formulated at the level of practical experience of sales and own observations. Let's try in the question-answer mode.

What should we expect price increases?

Yes exactly. Growth is not at all for all at once, but specifically for what? After all, the Russian art market is not some kind of homogeneous broth, but a set of island segments that are quite different in their fate. Moreover, at the same time in one segment of the price there may be stagnation and decline, and in another — on the contrary, everything is fine.

Among the most reliable and promising “islands” today include:

  1. The best works of the first names of the sixties, in particular: oils by Anatoly Zverev, gouache by Vladimir Yakovlev, paintings and sculptures by Vladimir Nemukhin, paintings by Boris Sveshnikov. In general, all the strong works of the nonconformists of the first row have good potential: Rabin, Weisberg, Yankilevsky, Kabakov, Sooster, Bulatov, Neizvestny, Tselkov, Vechtomov, Krasnopevtsev, Kropivnitsky, Shteinberg, Plavinsky, Schwartzman and others. I emphasize: it is important not only to pay attention in the name, but also at the high level and significance of a particular work.
  2. Strong completed works of the first names of the Russian classics: Shishkin, Levitan, Aivazovsky, Savrasov, etc. These are things that are finished, and not a sketch plan.
  3. Obvious creative successes of famous contemporary artists.

In these “exclusive” segments, even in times of crisis, high liquidity was noted. And for some work a serious struggle unfolded among buyers. What is this talking about. If hard work was bought for normal market money, without overpaying several times, then the potential for price growth for it is quite large. It turns out that the secret of success is commonplace: strong quality for normal money.

Does it make sense to buy and invest in the segment of 40,000 rubles in the expectation of future price growth? Should we expect price growth in the current low-cost segment?

If we talk only about money, then miracles should not be expected. The past few years have shown that the budget segment remains “ruble” and does not rise in price following the growing dollar rate. Examples of a sudden breakthrough in the major price league, I have not remembered for a long time.

But this does not mean that one can look down on inexpensive art. In this segment there are very solid and very underestimated works. And we personally know several collectors with amazing erudition who amazingly “snatch” excellent works, and even fantastically inexpensive. Yes, a set of names bought for modest money will not impress the public. And in an investment sense, they are unlikely to fire. But, believe me, the quality of the material selected by tenacious collectors is excellent — cleaner than any other museum.

Separately, I will say about the circulation graphics of the first names (etchings, lithographs — any prints). Rabin, Nemukhin and others. Most of the signature sheets today fit into the range of up to 40,000 rubles. More precisely, 20,000–40,000. The material is spectacular, beautiful, and interior. A perfect gift. But not an investment option. According to our observations, sheets, which until 2014 cost around 25,000 rubles, today cost the same 25,000 rubles. And for a long time. However, this does not mean that it will always be so. There is a nuance. Circulations are “washed out”, gradually sold out and settled in collections. Of the seemingly endless issues of 50 copies, dealers are now selling the last sheets. The authors are no longer alive. There is no one else to make and sign new circulations. So to dissuade yourself that “this is still a lot” and to postpone the purchase for later, too, is not worth it. If you see the sheet you like, don’t temporize, buy.

When is it worth selling today? And in what cases is it worth the wait with the sale?

We do not consider the most common option “urgently need money” — everything is clear with this. Selling is definitely worth it if the goal is to strengthen the collection. To get rid without regrets of things that are non-core for you (but desirable for other collectors) is a sensible move. It will be even easier to make a decision if the work is among the low-cost. In the lower and middle price segments, you should not really expect a rise in price.

It is advisable to postpone the sale if this thing was recently put up for auction. Before re-selling it is better to take a break in a month or two.

When will former times return?

I think that as it was before, there will never be. If a thing of average quality was bought for some monstrous $ 50,000 in 2003–2013, and today, $ 5,000 is given for it at best, then the situation is unlikely to improve. I’m more likely to believe in a fall to $ 3,000 than a rise in price to at least 10,000.

And why?

Price correction for the Russian art market is an objective process. It is not associated solely with the deterioration of the economic situation, the depreciation of the ruble and commodity prices. That is, of course, connected, but not limited to these reasons. The revision of prices for paintings occurred from within — the era of unskilled (that is, random) buyers has passed. Did you notice that there are much less purchases at monstrous prices? Where did all these 5-fold and 10-fold excesses of the estimate in London go? Suddenly, that's all. Like a meteorite fell. But in place of “we live once” came people who are well versed in art and not less well understanding in prices. So what happened is not an accident, but another round of evolution.

And yet, more specifically: when will prices rise?

Fortunately, no matter how unfavorable the atmosphere may be, somewhere there is a normal life in itself. From experience, our market, plus or minus, lives in three-year cycles: crisis — recovery — growth. The crisis conditionally lasts six months. Then a year and a half of recovery. This is followed by about a year of normal life, with growth and positive. And on a new one. If we accept this logic and rewind, then what do we get? March 2020 was remembered by the crisis after refusing a deal with OPEC, a drop in oil prices and a depreciation of the ruble. The coronavirus “lockdown” was superimposed on all this. This means that until September the acute crisis phase will last. Until the end of 2021 — God willing — leave on a plateau. It turns out that you can seriously count on growth only in 2022. At the same time, the price increase will be rather moderate: plus 15% in rubles or so.

Vladimir Bogdanov, ASi