Trends for 2019

As we strap ourselves in for another trip around the sun it’s time to reflect upon the last 12 months and think about the trends that may surface in the next year. Here are our top 3 predictions to look out for in 2019…

  1. The (artistic) utilisation of new technology

One of the landmark moments of 2018 was when Christie’s New York became the first auction house to sell a piece of work produced by Artificial Intelligence. Whilst Edmond de Belamy wasn’t much of a looker, the piece raised more than a few eyebrows when it was sold at auction for a cool $432,500.

Edmond de Belamy  sold for $432,500 at auction

Edmond de Belamy sold for $432,500 at auction

What troubled the art world most about this sale was that it prompted the question of whether we now need artists at all.

Well, fear not, of course we do; just look at the state of that thing! Joking aside, even as AI technology improves and the software gets closer to producing images that our eyes might consider to be art, anything devoid of human heart and human expression could never be thought of as art. Interesting decoration, perhaps. But art? Never! That is, unless, the artist can master the code…

Putting this extreme case to one side, with the rise in accessibility of 3D printers, 3D scanners, augmented reality, virtual reality and more, there is now a whole new dimension of canvases available to the artist. And whichever way you look at it, new technology in the hands of bold, human, statement-making artists is certainly something to be excited about.

2. A more levelled playing field

Undoubtedly the most talked about event of 2018 was Banksy’s infamous shredder stunt. Amongst other things, Banksy’s repertoire of stunts suggest that the backing of the traditional art industry is no longer quite so vital when it comes to the art of being talked about. Whilst public popularity, Instagram likes and retweets are not usually a reliable source of determining artistic quality and legacy, the opportunity is now there for any artist to make a noise with or without the blessing of the industry, making for a more levelled and interesting playing field.

This is not to say that that the art industry will become redundant, the combination of curator, critic, dealer and collector will still have an enormous influence with regards to which artists cement a place in art history, but the continued rise of social media and the endless possibilities of the world wide web gives more artists the opportunity to step into the bullring.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the balance between popularity and price will evolve in this digital age. Keep an eye on those auction houses to see what shakes out…

3. A more diverse playing field

Currently, the cultural diversity at the highest end of the art market is not very diverse at all; David Hockney (white male) is currently the highest-valued living artist, whilst 2018 saw another strong year in the auction house for Van Gogh (white male) and, of course, Banksy (white male, possibly). As The Art Newspaper put it, “Pale and male still wins.”

Thankfully, this won’t last. 2018 was a strong year for contemporary artists hailing from a variety of different cultures, with a number of pieces by African-American artists doing particularly well last year, including Kerry James Marshall’s painting Past Times, which sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s.

Kerry James Marshall’s painting  Past Times  sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s

Kerry James Marshall’s painting Past Times sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s

Additionally, although there is still a relatively large gap in commercial value at the top end of the market between male and female artists, 2018 saw increased bidding and exposure for female artists, with Jenny Saville breaking the auction house record for a living female artist.

Jenny Saville’s  Propped  sold for £8.25 million in 2018

Jenny Saville’s Propped sold for £8.25 million in 2018

Generally speaking, “smaller contemporary lots” (the type of thing you or I may find interesting) did very well at auction last year, perhaps suggesting that a new wave of contemporary diversity won’t take quite so long to reach the very top.

Watch this space, 2019 is set to be a cracking year of moving and shaking!


Oliver Squirrell