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”

Advertisements

Feel Free to Match the Couch: A Guide to Buying Art Online

Popping up, all over the internet, like bald little mushroom heads in the corner of an overgrown garden, are dozens of buy-art-online sites. Their spores are in the air. There’s a new one every day, with offerings that cover the whole gamut of affordability, quality and snob appeal.

It’s time to match the couch, my friends — shamelessly, and in the privacy of your own homes; the way you shop for porn.

BZA CO

Continue reading “Feel Free to Match the Couch: A Guide to Buying Art Online”

How the Met Killed The New York Senate’s De-accessioning Bill

It was the last straw, when, in 2008, the National Academy Museum sold two Hudson River School paintings in order to cover operating costs.

Public art institutions, feeling the recession and finding no recourse, had already begun to whisper about a sale here and there: Fort Ticondergoa had proposed to sell some artifacts and then withdrew the idea, and The Metropolitan Opera had put up its Chagall murals as collateral for a loan. By 2009,  Brandeis University was working with Sotheby’s on a lending program designed to avoid having to sell its entire Rose Art Museum collection.

With such threats to public art coming in ever increasing waves, a sense of urgency took over and the New York Senate, working with the Museum Association of New York and the New York Board of Regents, drafted a bill to prohibit cultural institutions from selling pieces of their collections to cover operating costs.

Continue reading “How the Met Killed The New York Senate’s De-accessioning Bill”

Art Market Recovery: Tracing Improvements

$48 Mil Head of a Muse; Raphael
$48 Mil in 2009 for Raphael's Head of a Muse

As I continue to study the art market’s very slight, but seemingly strong rebound, I will continue to compile reports which should lend insight, not only to the workings of the art market as it improves, but to trends that should grow out of this latest bubble burst. What follows are some things to look out for and what they mean for the future.

Continue reading “Art Market Recovery: Tracing Improvements”

WALL POWER

Picasso’s 1932 painting “Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust)
Picasso’s 1932 painting “Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust); photo from The New York Times Online

Because the market is looking up, and because the art world responds so quickly to upswings –and, because Picasso’s 1932 painting “Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur ” is really big and has all the bells and whistles (a lover, Marie-Thérèse, the iconic head thrown back pose, and a very Picasso-pallet), folks at the New York Times say that an auction price record is about to be broken.

According to NYT, the Picasso, on sale at Christie’s onTuesday, is  “poised to eclipse the $104.3 million paid for the current record holder, Giacometti’s “Walking Man I” purchased at Sotheby’s in February.

Art is beginning to be viewed as a good investment again, and, since the financial collapse, it seems like a safer place to put one’s money than in the stock market.

Other reasons why the hammer is expected to come down on a record price:

  • The painting is from a popular Picasso period of very large, very colorful paintings.
  • Picasso’s from the year 1932 are not likely to be sold again any time soon, if at all.
  • It was only on public view once since 1951: so it has freshness.
  • It “reeks,” according to NYT, of “Wall power.”

A GOOD BASQUIAT

Sotheby’s upcoming Contemporary Art Sale is going to offer some of the most iconic works of our time — so many in one show that the outcome will definitely exceed house estimates.

In her book, Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton tells us that, in auction speak, a “good so-and-so” is not necessarily one of the artist’s highest quality works, but, rather, one that’s iconic of the artist , one that, as Thornton puts it “fetishizes” the aspects of the artist’s work when s/he emerged.

Read on:What makes it “good?”

ESSAY: How to Say Hirst Was First

Who's on first?

Heraclitus was right. When the waters are everflowing, you can never step into the same river twice.

It is therefore, always safe to claim that some work of art, some event, some person, is a “first” — nothing will be the same after so and so, after thus and such, after this.

The controversial Damien Hirst sale at Sotheby’s in 2008 was a first: the contemporary art market would never be the same afterward.

Go ahead and say that, Google it: you won’t lack for support. The press was, after all, in a frenzy, mounting stories about the show, Beautiful in My Mind Forever, and the subsequent two day sale, onto the background blitz of financial failures and the Lehman Brothers collapse.

But what kind of “first” was it?

Continue reading “ESSAY: How to Say Hirst Was First”

Bonhams, Sotheby’s Betting on a Revived Interest in Islamic Art

This morning, Kelly Crow, writing for SPEAKEASY (a WSJ blog) , informed us that Bonhams is set to offer 20 pieces by Iranian artists, in a May sale. The Latin American art sale includes some popular and some emerging Iranian artists, with works expected to sell for as much as $120,000.

Meantime, Sotheby’s has announced that its April Arts of the Islamic World Sale took in $23.8 million, setting a record for, as they put it, “any sale of Islamic art.”

Why Sotheby’s Matters

Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal says Sotheby’s matters because “Because it’s the ultimate bubble stock, moving violently up and down throughout its history, always making super-sharp peaks right before the economy becomes unglued.”

Says, Weisenthal, “The good news is that if long term history is any guide, the next bubble that’s forming will be even more ridiculous and higher than the last.”

Sotheby's Bubbles
Business Insider's Chart Showing Sotheby's Stock "Bubbles"

ADDENDUM: Later today, Weisenthal added that more interesting than the “bubbles” were the plummets where Sotheby’s gains seemed to fall back down, during bleak market periods, to its 1989 status. Other stocks, though rising and falling, continue to climb. Are Sotheby’s investors oversensitive to weak markets?

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑