A bon voyage to maximalism? Stricter silhouettes. Conformity to simplicity. And an unimaginative art market.

Or in Tiktok terms…

Are short skirts recession core? Where are necklaces? And what does the art world have to say?

Prada AW23 Men’s Collection

You only need to look as far as Prada ’s mens AW23 show that embodies the cost of living slump within its worky-day threads. It’s perhaps too worth unravelling why Raf Simons sprung for less flamboyant and more office appropriate in this season’s ultimate low-key collection.

Gucci AW23 Men’s Collection

This farewell to maximalism was again echoed in Gucci’s first post-Alessandro outing in their menswear show this past Friday. Whilst practical, wearable and durable were certainly resonant thoughts following this show – it does beg the question as to whether the dazzling threads of yonder days have drifted due to simply belonging to a different economic climate.

Rosalia, Louis Vuitton AW23

Even Rosalia’s typical flamenco flair was constricted to a cool toned ensemble in Louis Vuitton’s recent outing. However Rick Owens would be perhaps a harder show to pin to this analysis with his shower that took a dark brutalistic turn, with a touch of American Psycho. That show exists in a separate realm.

Rick Owens AW23

A lot has happened through the jam packed weeks of fashion month – and eclecticism certainly runs as a common thread – so we cannot pin recession core to all runways, however there are some interesting moments to note – Gucci’s current headless campaign being at the forefront.

Dior AW23 Women’s Collection

Equally Dior’s nod to 1950’s Paris through a “no tra la la” – uniform-esque runway also conforms to this – so whether it’s looser fits of monochromatic tones, this year’s no frills affair perhaps is a sign of the times.

This sharp turn in pace set by the central fashion houses also subtly resonates further afield. The art market is a rock worth upturning in this instance.


If we look back to art fairs of late, there is one thing certain in no shortage; large paintings, better yet, large paintings that are colourful and easy to sell. Quickly agreeable shall we say.

Nevertheless, Wet Paint works bouncing with full force into auction houses and quickly sweeping up six figure sums is a declining formula some might argue…In the post covid era – there was a surge of output that placed the contemporary art market within upper echelon of blue chip works – wet paint works. Suddenly there was some risk in the game, we were seeing headlining works from artists that weren’t household names. People were casting their attention further-a-field. If we look beyond the mega-auctions – Paul G Allen’s billion dollar < 100 piece lot comes to mind here – collectors have been making room for the new generation, looking beyond the traditional discourse.… Sadly the longevity in this doesn’t look promising.  

If we use market trends as a crystal ball to dictate who will survive as the economy continues to turn – the standard names; Richter, Cindy Sherman, Emin, Basqiuat etc, stand to remain strong and stable in the case of auction / fair traction. As financial confidence falters, creative investment does also. (Case in point: the cancellation of Masterpiece Art Fair 2023). Though it’s hard to dictate where to place your certainties in the movement of future markets, we can be sure that there will always remain to be a consensus to stick to what you know. Whilst fairs may be expanding into new territories – Singapore art fair – Frieze Seoul etc – the works still beat to a similar drum. As do the crowds. White walls hoisting the same work we saw last month in Miami – which seemed more an influencer fest / fashion week event – ap pre po to miami style.

Courtesy of Jerry Gagosian

Whilst more recently Christie’s 2023 kicking off with a $202 mil sale is suggestive of an ample climate – this can immediately be deflated when we look below the surface as that number quickly shoots down to 168 million (137 million sterling) when we take into account the inflated fees. Despite not being an unspectacular figure in itself, it doesn’t quite sit amongst the blow you out the water figures that Christies is used to plastering across Artnet. 

In a more black and white case study that supports this notion, one only needs to look at the NFT market. Has anyone bought one recently? That risky investment seems to have quickly dimmed into the background.

Creative investment comes and goes but along with death and taxes, there is another certainty we can always count on; the rich staying rich and protecting the top end of the art market. Whilst upper and middle markets can fluctuate with the changing socio-economic tides – a rich collector passing on and shifting their collection will be a constant that Christies will bank on. 

If the 2023 exhibition agenda is anything to go by, —  with blockbuster shows lining up to be strictly 20th century: Twombly, O’Keeffe, Klimt, Van Gogh, Matisse and Philip Guston. Not to mention the 42-exhibitions-across-38-museums-fest devoted to Picasso to mark the 50th anniversary of his death – We can again see where this is going…

With surrealism in its heyday again and the upcoming shows forefronting the old reliables – playing its safe seems to be the all round consensus. 

As for the fashion industry, it seems everyone has sobered up following the surge of clunky jewellery, homemade tie dye and DIY furniture in the sudden pandemic pivot into maximalism.

With that being said, in the wake of cost of living the resale market sits at an all time high and sustainability is tightening its leash. So perhaps the simpler threads make sense for a while. 

In times of cultural change and revolution we constantly will see an upturn across trends and culture – from the late 19th century Romanticism movement right through to John Major’s 90’s insurgence of Brit-pop. The correlations are always there through our visual forms of expression and investment, however what we seem to underestimate is these cues emerging under our nose before we’ve even registered. 

– Imogen Haisman


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