I have a metaphysical theory that I call The Law of Maximized Irony:
In a nutshell, any set of initial circumstances will resolve to the state of greatest irony.
Case in point:
With increasing frequency we see incredulous stories about artists who’ve made careers out of cribbing other people’s work suing artists who have copied them. Is it flat out hypocrisy, or good business strategy — or both? Whatever is behind it, the story makes for a lot of really good laughs.
When a big name collector “offloads” the art of a specific artist from his collection, it can, we have heard, have a chilling effect on the market for that artist’s work. Sometimes this makes the artist very angry. Sometimes things escalate.
All the same, Charles Saatchi feels that a collector should do as they will with the artwork they buy.
Asked about a long-standing rumor that he had “ruined” the career of Sandro Chia when he purged his collection all of his Chias at once, Saatchi said:
“At last count I read that I had flooded the market with 23 of his paintings. In fact, I only ever owned seven paintings by Chia. One morning I offered three of them back to Angela Water, his New York dealer, where I had originally bought them, and four back to Bruno Bischofberger, his European dealer, where, again I had bought those. Chia’s work was tremendously desirable at the time a all seven went to big-shot collectors or museums by close of day.”
Often disputes between artists and dealers can turn into something like a divorce with all the same spoilage. The one between James Turrell, and Michael Hue-Williams of Albion gallery displays several kinds of ugly, fouled-up business, soiled reputations, career sabotage, and — sigh– lots of compromise.
If a dealer thinks an artist is not delivering on a commission, he can bring the artist to court, for instance. as Hue-Williams did to Turrell in 2007.
And if an artist thinks a dealer is selling pieces that he was not consulted about or paid for, he can counter-sue, as Turrell did to Hue-Williams.
Now when a dealer is miffed and spending money on litigation, he may take a the semi-self-sabotaging action of selling the artist’s work off at auction to make the artist look bad. This is what Michael Hue-Williams hinted at in a 2008 e-mail.