The art and luxury trends on our radar in 2023

From generative AI art to decorative maximalism, here are the trends that we advise keeping an eye on right now

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You don’t need to be attending every international art fair to keep up with trends in the art world, but staying informed is essential for collectors who want to stay ahead of the curve and make savvy buying decisions. Here are some trends on the rise. 

The art world opens its third eye 

The art market is taking an interest in mysticism, and some might say it’s long overdue. It’s only recently that Remedios Varo, for example — the Surrealist painter who merged science and mysticism in her imagined worlds — has begun to get the international recognition she deserves. The Art Institute of Chicago will open an exhibition dedicated entirely to the artist on 29 July, Remedios Varo: Science Fictions, and almost 60 years after her death her work is still rising on the market. Radically abstract artist and fellow mystic Hilma af Klint is also garnering renewed interest following an exhibition at the Guggenheim, with her work being displayed at the Tate until 3 September 2023, in Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life.

This heightened demand is reflected by Christie’s recent sales. Varo's painting Retrato del Doctor Ignacio Chávez was a star feature in Christie’s The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale, selling for £3,882,000. Leonora Carrington — who worked closely with Varo and infused her work with a shared mysticism and otherworldly elements — was also featured, and her painting Belfry is currently available for private sale. 

Agnes Pelton (1881-1961), The Fountains, 1926. Oil on canvas. 36⅛ x 32 in (91.8 x 81.3 cm). Sold for $3,438,000 on 11 May 2023 at Christie's in New York

In this year’s 20th Century Evening Sale, Agnes Pelton’s work The Fountains — an abstract work inspired by symbolism, astrology, theosophical texts and the wider metaphysical world — shattered records, selling for $3,438,000. This follows Pelton's retrospective at the Whitney in 2020.

Mysticism is proving to be just as popular in the contemporary market. Loie Hollowell's distinctive visual lexicon — which incorporates mystically symbolic shapes like the mandorla and lingam — is reverberating through the art world. In 2022 she released an NFT, and her work Standing in Light will feature in Christie's upcoming Contemporary Edition.

Shooting for the moon — jar

Traditional Korean moon jars have been revered for centuries. Historically made from baekja, a porcelain of refined white kaolin clay, moon jars rose to prominence in the 18th century, a time when the country’s neo-Confucian ideals inspired an aesthetic preference for austerity, clarity and understated elegance. There are only about 30 known examples of white porcelain jars in a larger size made during the Joseon Dynasty — Christie’s recently offered one of them in its Japanese and Korean Art auction.

Joseon dynasty, an important white porcelain moon jar, 18th century. 17¾ in (45.1 cm) high. Sold for $4,560,000 on 21 March 2023 at Christie's in New York

However, there has been a recent revival of the storied object in collecting and contemporary design circles. In modern Korea, ceramics masters like Park Young-sook and Kwon Dae-sup are reviving the craft and widely revered for their dedication to a process that yields no more than 10 jars a year (BTS is the most famous collector of Kwon’s work). The trend is spreading to contemporary and minimalist interior design circles far beyond the Korean Peninsula: Jane Yang-D’Haene, Clair Catillaz and Ilona Golovina are all N.Y.-based artists whose moon jars are in high demand right now.

Rising institutional recognition for women artists

The widespread fervour for contemporary women’s art has been reflected in meteoric prices achieved at auction — with multiple women artists breaking records recently — and recognition from some of the world's most prestigious institutions. In the Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale on 15 May, more than 50 per cent of the lots were by women artists, and five of them broke records.

Cecily Brown (b. 1969), Untitled (The Beautiful and Damned), 2013. Oil on linen. 109 x 171 in (276.9 x 434.3 cm). Sold for $6,705,000 on 15 May 2023 at Christie's in New York © Cecily Brown

The auction spotlighted some of the most buzzworthy women artists in the contemporary market right now, with Brooklyn-based painter Robin F. Williams opening the sale, Cecily Brown and Yayoi Kusama respectively achieving the second- and third-highest prices of the evening, and Simone Leigh fetching a world record price at the time of the sale for her sculpture Stick. As well as showcasing established women artists at the forefront of the art world’s stage, the evening also highlighted emerging talents like Danielle McKinney and Rebecca Ackroyd.

These artists are also achieving important institutional recognition, further fuelling demand. Leigh, for example, is currently the subject of a retrospective at The ICA in Boston, whilst The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a full-fledged survey of Brown's work. These are all names worth knowing, but pay attention as more step out — this is a sector of the art market growing fast.

Opulent arm candy

Whilst fashion forecasters have stressed the growing trend of quiet luxury and minimalism, handbags remain a haven for lovers of lavish luxury.

Hermès, the maker of Birkin and Kelly bags, reported a 23% jump in sales in this year’s first quarter, as shoppers in Europe and China continued to splurge on luxury handbags regardless of consistent price increases. Christie’s Handbags Specialist and Head of Sale, Paige Rubin, notes that this trend has been just as tangible in the Auction market, saying ‘our bidders have demonstrated a renewed appetite for luxury with a capital L’.

Christie’s most recent handbag sale, Handbags Online: The New York Edit on June 12, proved her point. From diamond-encrusted Birkins and colourful leather Marquetry, to the eye-catching white Crocodile Himalaya series, collectors sought out unabashedly exuberant and exquisitely detailed handbags. A rare Hermès Kellywood 22 broke records, fetching $176,400, a new record high price for the model at auction, and the auction totalled $4.1 million, making it the highest-grossing handbag sale ever staged in the Americas. The memo for this season resounded loud and clear: despite suggestions that fashion should quiet down, many collectors are still seeking out handbags that scream ‘fabulous’.

The power of provenance

Provenance has always been a factor to consider when purchasing art, but the market seems to be placing more focus on it now than ever before. Earlier this year Christie’s presented The Collection of André Leon Talley, and prices not only soared past estimates — the public interest was so piqued that the lots could be referenced (and recognised) in mainstream popular culture. Rihanna’s attire for her Super Bowl performance — a bright red ‘sleeping bag’ coat — was reputedly a reference to lot 41, Talley’s beloved ‘brick red “sleeping bag” clutch coat’ from Norma Kamali.

Norma Kamali, a brick red ‘sleeping bag’ clutch coat, 2000s. Reversible, in rip-stop weave nylon with notch lapel and side slit inset pockets. Medium. Sold for $25,200 on 15 February 2023 at Christie's in New York

From offering the collections of Ann and Gordon Getty and Donna Summer, to those of Paul G. Allen and S.I. Newhouse during 20th and 21st century Marquee Week this May, Christie’s has long been a market leader in provenance. Its upcoming list of sales coming from notable names further highlight the market trend. Leading the charge is Rothschild Masterpieces, a series of auctions that will take place in New York this October and offer objects assembled in the 19th century by one of history’s most important collecting families. Offering $20 million worth of treasures from the dynasty, it is the first auction of its kind in America.

The return of the cuff bracelet

Anthony Vaccarello’s spring/summer 2023 runway collection for Saint Laurent — 80s themed, and punctuated by oversize oblong bracelets adorning nearly every model’s wrist — heralded the return of the cuff bracelet. Ever since, it’s been everywhere: the iconic Bone Cuff designed by Elsa Perretti in the 70s for Tiffany & Co. has experienced a particular surge of popularity on the secondary market, with high and fast-fashion brands riffing off various versions of it. Elsewhere, small jewellery brands like Alexis Bittar and Agmes have introduced cuff styles of their own: the perfect statement jewellery piece for summer, it’s a trend available for buyers at each end of the market.

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The exceptional Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond ‘Jarretière’ bracelet, 1937. Inner circumference 14.6 cm (5¾ in). Sold for $4,527,000 on 7 June 2023 at Christie's in New York

For those collectors intent on having the most sought-after versions the world has to offer, Christie’s recently offered Marlene Dietrich’s Van Cleef and Arpels ruby and diamond ‘Jarretière’ bracelet, one of the most important jewels of all time. The cuff bracelet — which features oval-shaped rubies, and round, square-shaped and baguette-cut diamonds, all set in platinum — was a star lot in The Magnificent Jewels of Anne Eisenhower sale on 7 June, in New York. It sold for $4,527,000.

Well known for being featured in several scenes in Hitchcock’s Stage Fright, the bracelet was beloved by Dietrich both on and offscreen, and is said to be the only piece of jewellery she kept throughout her life. ‘Dietrich’s bracelet is so high drama, so Hollywood, the ultimate of everything — the greatest rubies, diamonds, mounting. It’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen’ says Lisa Hubbard, Christie’s Jewellery Senior Advisor.

Its star-studded provenance was given a final flourish when Anne Eisenhower added it to her collection in 1992.

More is more

When it comes to interior design, consumers are becoming increasingly bored of neutral tones and inoffensive, pared-down minimalism. Maximalism is nothing new — it goes back to the Victorian era, and popped up in other styles like Art Deco, Hollywood Regency, the Gilded Age, and even Baroque. Now once again maximalism — with its joyfully over-exuberant, unrestrained, more-is-more philosophy — is back with a colourful bang.

Christie’s recent auction of The Ann and Gordon Getty Collection: Temple of Wings, highlighted the popularity of this growing trend. The Gettys’ early 20th century Berkeley property was built in a Greco-Roman style, and under Ann Getty’s stewardship it held a variety of 19th and early 20th century decorative arts. Drawing on her archaeological background and bold personal style, Mrs. Getty’s interiors were known for their layered maximalism.

Tiffany Studios, 'Poppy' Table Lamp, c. 1905. Leaded glass, Favrile glass, patinated bronze. 23 in (58.4 cm) high, 17 in (43.2 cm) diameter of shade. Sold for $163,800 on 14 June 2023 at Christie's in New York

The sale — which included works designed by A.W.N. Pugin, the figurehead of design reform and the revival of the Gothic in Great Britain; masterpieces by titans of Victorian decorative arts like celebrated architect-designers William Burges, Bruce Talbert and Charles Robert Ashbee; an impressive group of William de Morgan ceramics; 30 works by Tiffany Studios; and both furniture and textiles by the recognised ‘father’ of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris — soared past its estimate, fetching $22 million.

Swapping paint and canvas for data sets

Generative art is an umbrella term for code-based art — it uses an algorithm or mathematical formula to confer decision-making to an autonomous system. Generative AI art also uses code, but it goes one step further by adding machine learning. AI artists will train an algorithm on a dataset so that it can produce artworks within its own parameters.

Refik Anadol’s large-scale installation in MoMA’s lobby, Unsupervised, is an example that’s making waves in the art world. Anadol trained an AI model to interpret the publicly-available data of MoMA’s collection. As it’s fed the museum’s vast collection of artwork, it reimagines the history of modern art and ‘dreams’ about what might have been, rendering an infinite flow of animated images on a 24- by 24-foot digital display.

Generative AI isn’t just reserved for the walls of lofty institutions – its appeal lies in its accessibility — AI image generating services and digital platforms like Midjourney have made it easy for anyone to create AI generated images.

Tyler Hobbs (b. 1987), Fidenza #724, 2021. Minted on 11 June 2021, this work is unique and accompanied by a non-fungible token. Archival digital pigment print on paper. Jpeg: 2,000 x 2,400 pixels. Print: 49¾ x 41⅞ in (126.5 x 106.4 cm). Sold for £365,400 on 28 February 2023 at Christie’s in London. © Tyler Hobbs

Tyler Hobbs — a pioneer of the Generative Art movement and one of the most buzzworthy artists in the digital art space – had his generative art work Fidenza #724 offered at Christie’s 20th/21st Century London Evening Sale. Speaking to Christie’s editorial, he said ‘I see code becoming more and more of a standard tool for artists. It’s just way too powerful to ignore, and those who can wield it effectively can do things others can’t.’ 

The art market has adapted fast to the growing stealth of AI generative art. In 2018, Christie’s became the first auction house to offer an AI-generated work, Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy, and in 2022 it launched Christie’s 3.0, an on-chain platform dedicated to digital art.

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