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Jeffrey Gundlach
Jeffrey Gundlach

Gundlach Fields ‘Panic Offers’ With the Art Market in Distress

"It makes sense for people who want liquidity."

Bloomberg) -- The global art market is girding for a liquidity crunch.

Jeffrey Gundlach, the billionaire money manager and art collector, said he received “panic offers” of works by artists including Monet, Renoir and Hopper at slashed prices. Financier Asher Edelman is gathering investors to buy at a discount. Strains are even showing in the Sotheby’s debt, which is trading at distressed levels.

Edelman, who provides loans against artwork, said Tuesday that he has assembled a group of collectors, galleries and other art professionals who are prepared to buy major works at a 35% discount to prices they would have fetched a month ago. By the following afternoon, Edelman said he received $275 million in offers including works by Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter and Roy Lichtenstein.

“This is a difficult time,” Edelman said. “It makes sense for people who want liquidity” to turn to their art collections.

The coronavirus has sent stock prices tumbling globally, roiled credit and currency markets, and forced some investors to sell assets to meet margin calls.

It’s also had a chilling effect on the art industry, where business is typically conducted in person -- at auctions, galleries and fairs. Christie’s and Phillips said this week they will postpone their marquee May auctions of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art in New York until June. Frieze New York canceled its annual fair, while the official overseeing the divorce-driven sale of Harry and Linda Macklowe’s massive art trove put the process on hold.

In addition to social distancing, another problem is that buyers don’t know what things are worth, according to Mitchell Zuckerman, an art consultant in New York. “Significant private sales that were in negotiation stopped in their tracks,” he said.

That doesn’t mean all business ends.

“My clients are liquid and looking to do distress deals, or scoop up canceled sales of primary works by artists they collect,” said New York-based art adviser Wendy Cromwell. “It was like that for me in 2008 as well.”

Gundlach said in a tweet Wednesday he’s already received offers for “blue chip (though not at all trophy) art at slashed prices.” The chief executive officer of DoubleLine Capital said in an email the works were from Impressionists Gustave Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro to contemporary artists Anselm Kiefer, Anish Kapoor and Richard Prince.

“None were good enough quality for me to have any interest in buying,” he said, adding he’s open to acquiring “top tier work by artists I find compelling if prices fell enough.”

Christie’s, which closed all offices in Europe and the U.S., is seeing an increase in private sales inquiries and plans to launch online viewing rooms for clients interested in such deals, said Marc Porter, chairman of the Americas at the auction house.

“There’s aptitude to transact right now,” said David Schrader, Sotheby’s worldwide head of private sales. “I just went to look at an artwork for someone in Europe because they can’t see it. With high-res pictures and condition reports, seasoned buyers are comfortable -- as long as they are dealing with people they trust.”

Auctions of wine and modern South Asian art at Sotheby’s and decorative objects at Christie’s this week did surprisingly well, considering salerooms were nearly empty and all the action was on the phones and online. Art Basel Hong Kong, which launched online viewing rooms this week after canceling the live event, had many sales by the end of the first VIP day, including a $2.6 million painting by Marlene Dumas at David Zwirner gallery.

These amounts though are dwarfed by the money auction houses bring in during each major season. Art collectors and investors shelled out more than $2 billion over five days of sales in New York last May.

Bonds for Sotheby’s, which was taken private last year by Patrick Drahi for in a debt-fueled $2.7 billion acquisition, have tumbled with the junk-bond market and are trading at 81.5 cents on the dollar.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Katya Kazakina in New York at [email protected];
Miles Weiss in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Pierre Paulden at [email protected]
Peter Eichenbaum

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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