Antiquities are the art world’s niche market of the moment. Last month in London, sculptures from ancient Egypt and ancient Rome sold for 15.8 million pounds and £9.4 million respectively, setting the highest prices at Christie’s and Sotheby’s summer auctions of pre-20th-century works. At the same time, the British capital is reinforcing its reputation as the world’s leading art souk, where the international rich can buy masterpieces from just about any culture and era, with the opening of four galleries specializing in museum-quality objects from the ancient world.
The rise in sales of stellar objects from Egypt, Greece, Rome and other ancient civilizations can be attributed in part to their timeless appeal. They’re attracting purchases from contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons and Marc Quinn, as well as impulse buyers from other collecting fields. The diversity of this client base, as well as the museum-proven quality of the artifacts themselves, make antiquities consistent sellers at international art fairs like Tefaf Maastricht and Frieze Masters.