20th Century Italian Art

Bloomberg Business breaks down the exploding high-end art market.

This article, written by , appears on Bloomberg Business.

The 20th Century Italian Art Market Is the Latest to Feel the Boom

Exploding artists such as Lucio Fontana are the tip of the Italian iceberg, say some experts. This is where the million-dollar “bargains” can still be found in the high-end art market.

When a work by Lucio Fontana sold at Christie’s New York last month for $29.2 million, it was the highest price the artist had ever achieved at auction. The giant, canary-yellow canvas was the latest in a string of broken records: Five of Fontana’s top 10 auction sales of all time were in 2015, according to Artnet.

In one respect, Fontana’s rise should surprise few familiar with the art world. Twentieth century Italian art, which includes the recently wildly popular postwar Arte Povera movement, has been on a boom for close to a decade. In fact, in October, sales in London dedicated specifically to 20th century Italian art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s did so well that there can be few doubts about the movement’s ascendancy.

What is new, however, is postwar Italian art’s position in the highest echelons of the art world’s prestigious postwar and contemporary evening sales. Just five years ago, you wouldn’t have seen a Fontana in one of those. As recently as 2010, says Todd Levin, director of Levin Art Group in New York,  prices for those paintings in private sales “topped out at $2 million to $2.5 million. And they were really a hard sell.”

The cheapest of Fontana’s top 10 lots to sell at auction this past year, in contrast, was $10.3 million.

And while Fontana may be an outlier in terms of price point, Levin suggests he represents the proverbial tip of the Italian iceberg.

“You’ve already seen significant jumps in a lot of the Zero and Arte Povera artists’ markets,” he points out, referring to a Europeanwide avant-garde movement in the 1960s.

Multiple dealers who sell works from the period agree—the public just may not know about it, because some major pieces have yet to come to auction. Read more at Bloomberg Business.

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