There’s been a seismic shift in the high-end furniture market over the last ten years, where antiques – once the investment of choice of the wealthy, who historically have a fondness for old-world elegance – have fallen out of favour, and have been replaced at the top of investors’ wish lists by modern and contemporary design pieces.
According to the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, luxury furniture assets have seen a 31% decline in the value over the past ten years, with a 5% dip in 2016. Although these figures include both antique and modern pieces, upon closer examination, the change in the market preference from old to new is clearly illustrated: French 18th century, English 18th century, and Regency pieces fell 64%, 35%, and 30% respectively over the last ten years (and 21%, 9%, and 9% respectively last year); while early and mid-20th century furniture investments saw only a slight drop in value of 1% over the last 10 years, but an increase of 8% in 2016.
These price-growth trends can be seen in auction houses across the world, where the likes of Christie’s and Phillips have put more emphasis in recent years on masters of mid-century modern furniture design like Carlo Mollino, Gio Ponti, Jean Prouvé, and Jean Royère, as well as contemporary designers like Marc Newson and Joris Laarman. And these modern maestros have delivered some world-record shattering sales: an aluminium Lockheed Lounge sofa by Newson sold at Phillips in April 2015 for £2.4 million (US$3.1 million) – the highest price ever paid for a piece by a living designer sold at auction.