Mordechai Ardon, The House of the Maggid (1954)In the past decade the Israeli art market’s turnover topped $180 million. In 2007, the Israeli art market was estimated to have reached its all-time high of $36 million. While annual sales dropped about 40% in 2008 and 2009 in the wake of the global financial misfortune, the 2nd half of 2009 saw signs of recovery ahead of the new decade.

With a price of $643,200, Mordechai Ardon’s Timepecker holds the record for a piece by an Israeli artist.

During the 1990s, annual auction sales leaped from a few million dollars for a couple of hundred items sold to $12 million for nearly a thousand items sold in 1999. Though, due to various factors at the time, art in the Jewish Country suffered a sharp drop in sales. Annual turnover dropped from $13 million for approximately 900 items sold in 2000 to nearly $5 million per approximately 700 items sold in 2003. In Comparison to the rest of the world, the Israeli art market experienced a sharper drop as global reduction in auction sales turnover was only 10% at the time.

Chagall, ParentsOn the spur of the first signs of economic recovery in Israel in late 2003 and early 2004, Sotheby’s Israel branch took its contemporary Israeli art sales to be auctioned in New York, providing exposure to Israeli art and artists. The single most lucrative Israeli art auction was held in the 2nd quarter of 2006 in Sotheby’s NY, where a $6 million turnover was recorded.

Well since then things have been a lot better. Pieces which were sold at hammer prices of $100K and higher, increased by an average of 49% from 2003 until the end of 2007. Mordechai Ardon’s Ascension of a Watchmaker was sold in Sotheby’s Tel Aviv in 1988 for $30,800 and then resold in 2005 at Sotheby’s New York for $108,000.

The highest return on an item sold in an Israeli auction house was 320% and belongs to Marc Chagall’s Personnages de cirque, which was sold in 1997 for $57,500 at Christie’s in Tel Aviv and resold ten years later at the same location for $240,000.