The Cyclical Rotation Effect: A Factor in the Art Market and the Stock Market

OCTOBER 14, 2015
Shirley Mueller, MD
Export Porcelain
The first lot in the Marques dos Santos Leilões sale of Chinese export porcelain on Sept. 25 sold for nearly $20,000 including commissions.

My phone representative said, “He never takes down his hand.” This was my counter-bidder for Chinese export porcelain at the Marques dos Santos Leilões sale of Chinese export art Sept. 25 in Oporto, Portugal. Chinese export porcelain is porcelain made in China and exported to the West.

What was surprising was not that I was outbid, but the nationality of my opponent. He was not Chinese (this ethnic group been rabid in the auction market of late for all things Chinese). Rather, he was from India.

This competitor for the auctioned Chinese export porcelain lifted his arm and did not drop it when he wanted to make a purchase. Bidders in the room found this intimidating no doubt, but it was also intimidating to me as a phone bidder. I knew that if I desired a lot and this man did too, he wouldn’t stop until he won it. Of course, that could mean he paid too high a price, but perhaps no matter to a wealthy person whose anticipation of owning Chinese export made his pleasure center burn brightly.

Secondary bidders in the sale were evidently Brazilian and English with Chinese buyers scarcely to be found according to my phone representative. So, it is with art. When a country’s economy nosedives as it has in China, generally fewer art enthusiasts buy art.

This is akin to cyclical rotation in the stock market. When the economy is booming, automobiles, steel, and housing, among other items including collectible art, are purchased with expendable monies. When it is lagging, less so. The companies that sell these relative luxuries are called cyclical—their price rises and falls with the economy. This happens with art buyers too, at least in the middle market where consumers can be moderately wealthy rather than super rich. When their native economy is doing well, they buy; when it is not, they hibernate.

Perhaps it is as I quoted in Art: The Chinese Are Buying?, “Timing is everything.” This is, after all, only another take on cyclical rotation.

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