Friday, 31 October 2008

New York, New York where I will spend some time next year.

Writing a paper

Beginning is easy: "This paper investigates the evolution of prices and returns in the art market since the middle of the previous century." Then it gets harder.

"An incredible richness of experiences"

Now on Sotheby's TV: the preview of its Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York on November 11.

Seeing auctioneer Tobias Meyer talking about the works of Yves Klein and the likes, you start to understand what he said in an interview with The New Yorker in 2006: "What I love to do is put people in front of art and make them feel it, make them stop everything else they're doing and experience it, deeply. That's how I make art expensive. And that's my job, for the company and for my clients. To make art expensive."

Down, down, down (2)

Artinfo reports on the "funereal mood" at the London auctions.

"We obviously need to adjust our pricing," said Christie’s London contemporary head Pilar Ordovas at the post-sale press conference.

Down, down, down

Sotheby's stock price over the last six months:

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Printing money

In today's edition of The Guardian, British artists talk about art and money.

"Any artist who doesn't secretly admire what Damien's been able to achieve is not being entirely honest. But that level of commodification is quite specific to Damien." About the individual Hirst works that went on the block, Julien is more circumspect. "Warhol's use of repetition had real intellectual meaning. Nowadays, I wonder if seriality is not just a way of printing money."

My shopping bag

I went to Frieze today. I couldn't afford any of the works up for sale, but I did go home with 'The $12 Million Stuffed Shark'.

When the book was published in February, The Economist's Art.view blog wrote:
A new book by an economist named Don Thompson entitled 'The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art and the Auction Houses' ought to be required reading for collectors intending to wade into well publicised contemporary art auctions like the one Sotheby’s will host on February 27th. It ought to be, but it won’t, because it is out of tune with the hype that accompanies these sales.

Two of Mr Thompson’s observations are particularly telling. First, only half of the modern and contemporary artists listed in Christie’s and Sotheby’s catalogues 25 years ago are now offered at any major auction. And second, of the 1,000 artists who had serious gallery shows in London and New York during the 1980s only 20 were shown in comparative venues in 2007.

The Power 100

ArtReview has published its 2008 Power 100 list.

Now in its seventh year, the Power 100 assesses the titans of the artworld at a time when contemporary art's appeal has never been greater – and the stakes have never been higher. The ArtReview Power 100 looks at the artworld not according to what it shows, but who it is. The list is a highly visible barometer in an otherwise opaque industry, letting you know who's deciding what you see, and telling you a little about why.

On number 1 this year: Damien Hirst. What a surprise.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

From London to Moscow

Phillips de Pury, one of the largest auction houses in the world, has been sold to a Russian group, according to a report in the Financial Times last week.

A chilly Frieze?

"A lot of people just aren't in the mood to spend": The Wall Street Journal reports on the lowered expectations of the Frieze Art Fair.

Wishful thinking

Don Thompson, author of the book 'The $12 Million Stuffed Shark', on investing in art anno 2008:
The best of the best, the masterpieces, will always do well. But this is probably not the best time to invest in a portfolio of mid-market art. Remember that for all the talk of investment, you have to make 15 to 20 percent per year on it to cover the cost of capital and storage and insurance. What work today would you say would appreciate 20 percent a year for five years? If you want to buy a masterpiece as a store of value, that’s fine, but if you think of it as a high-yielding investment, that’s wishful thinking.

Read more here.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Back to the Future

Now that the end of the art boom may be in sight, it is good to look back a year or twenty:
- The Art Boom: Is It Over, or Is This Just a Correction? (The NY Times, December 1990)
- The Market's Blue Period (The NY Times, May 1992)

The end of the boom?

According to The Times "investors in stamps, jewels and wines may not escape the global economic downturn".

Rics spokesman Andrew Davies of AXA art insurance says: “There is an urban myth that fine art and antiques are recession-proof. This is wrong. This market lags behind the economic cycle by around a year to 18 months. So people should not rely on it. (...) The bottom end of the market is dead. I went to an contemporary art auction last week where there were 283 lots and only 82 lots sold. That is appalling. Those that did not sell were in the £1,000 to £5,000 range."

Thursday, 9 October 2008


It's that time of the year again: the Frieze Art Fair is coming to London next week.

Why the art market can't crash

...and why it will anyway.

In the art world, there’s a clear delineation between those who experienced the last crash, in the early nineties, and those who didn’t. “This market is fueled by collectors who have never been through a correction,” says art adviser Darlene Lutz, active since the eighties. “The generations who did are watching this with disbelief. It’s like teenagers who have unprotected sex thinking they’ll never get pregnant. And then, whoops . . . look what happened!”

(Note that the article was written in March 2006.)