TREND: Wherein I Speculate About Auction Houses Buying Galleries

Although news reports of record sales continue to herald the recovery of the art market, many galleries continue to experience hardship and are driven to close their doors. I believe that auction houses have discovered a new way to take advantage of  this unfortunate trend.

Recently, Max Protetch prepared to jump ship but keeping his staff, his loyal client list in and the welfare of his artists, in mind he sold his gallery, and its name, to a successor, Edwin Meulensteen who will take over the business while Protetch stays on as an adviser until October.

It bucks the trend.

Many galleries simply shut down, but galleries as successful as the 40 year old Protetch have been selling to the auction houses. Haunch of Venison is owned by Christie’s International, and Noortman Master Paintings, Andre Emmerich and Deitch Projects belong to Sotheby’s.

Speculation that the auction houses are building a wall of wisdom between themselves and the next market fluctuation starts right here, my friends:

Auction house stock plunges at a sneeze from the economy — and then recovers first. That leaves a tiny fail window, a chink in the armor that most people fail to see. They think the auction houses are fail-safe when, actually they the canary in our economy’s coal mine.

And since collectors tend to prefer selling through dealers when they need cash on the down low, auction houses can hedge their bets by owning some of the top galleries.

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