The 'death of the middle market'

June 25 2012

I was surprised to read in the Financial Times that a number of London Old Master dealers think the 'middle market' is dead:

The problem for all these dealers is that, as elsewhere, it continues to be far less difficult to sell the very best and the least expensive than the vast amount of material in between. As the London and Milan-based Old Master and contemporary art dealer Edmondo di Robilant explains: “At Art Basel the bigger galleries selling the biggest names seemed to be fine. It is the same for this business. We do very well with expensive pictures, making one or two big deals a month with works over £1m but we are not selling anything in the middle market.” He adds: “The industrialist worth hundreds of millions is diverting £3m into buying a picture but the notary with a surplus of £200,000 has disappeared.”

Dealer Julian Agnew believes the market is becoming even more discerning: “The middle market is tough unless things are very competitively priced.”

I wonder what these dealers are doing wrong: in the last three months, we've sold 48 pictures for under £100,000 (we being Philip Mould & Co.). The middle market is very alive. The only difference is that the buyer in the 'middle market' has changed, and you have to work much harder to reach them. It helps not to call them 'the middle market', which is slightly patronising. But that's enough trade secrets...  

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