State of the Art Market: Just my Perfunctory Opinion

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More moaning than ever about the difficulties of evaluating contemporary art. Back that with lots more talk about “speculators” and you have the equivalent of stock brokers hating on day traders.

Lots of breathless pronunciations that the art market is back in boom times.

Perpetual claims of “record” sales prices for every tiny art genre, artist, and period make every evening sale an historic event.

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With our new 3-second news cycles, and all the sweaty drama poured into the auction summaries,  it is hard to imagine that that the art market really does map onto the broad stock market:  Sotheby’s stock fell with the Japanese stock bubble at the tail end of the 80’s, dropped in front of the Nasdaq in the 90s, and  then lead the fall in 2007, dropping swiftly in November, well ahead of the broad stock market which fell in December of that year and sloped downward at a more graceful pace.

Judging from recent reports one could definitely get the impression that the next boom is on, as we may have in May of 2010, only to waken to hand-wringing despair as we did in June and July. Now as we are watching a rocky climb back up again, it is wise to take each $17 Million dollar unregistered Warhol portrait with a grain of salt

Slim Pickin’s in Lean Times = $69 Mil for the Big Mo

Modigliani’s “La belle Romaine” is large.

No use talking about the art market as if it had ANYthing to do with the real world… Auction prices are back to mind-blowing even while our unemployment rates hover around 9%. An examination of performances by Sotheby’s and Christie’s  evening sales of contemporary art this week will show you only that a luxury market —a collectors luxury market — responds to a slowly recovering economy with sheer, unabashed, indulgence.

The story these days is about rarity. And rarity speaks only to desire and competition, a combo that makes for dramatic auctions. So when every last brushstroke and cast is sitting on Mr. Moneyfeather’s veranda, and collectors are left scrabbling over the leavings or the occasional toss-away, we are left gasping at record prices fetched for middling Modiglianis and lackluster Monets.

Continue reading “Slim Pickin’s in Lean Times = $69 Mil for the Big Mo”

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