EDITORIAL: THE STATE OF THE MODERN ART WORLD? SAME AS IT EVER WAS
Following the dismal sales results of several high profile contemporary art auctions at venerable resale institutions CHRISTIES, PHILLIPS DE PURY, and SOTHEBY’S this month, England’s Warhol, otherwise known as DAMIEN HIRST, has come out in his first interview following his record-shattering $200 million Sotheby’s auction in September as saying the art market is over inflated. Citing as an example his spin art painting featuring a quartet of skulls, “Beautiful Artemis Thor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting,” which was poised to fetch at least $3 million USD at last week’s Phillips de Pury NYC auction but instead went unsold, the artist said the piece “was over-priced. It was bought from me less than a year ago at half the price.” Explaining the state of the current market, he added, “We are looking at more realistic prices. People who bought things are not going to sell them that day. That is what an artist wants, for people to hang the works on their wall. As an artist, you don’t stop making art because people are not buying it. I think it’s quite good [adjustment in art market prices] because it became unreal … You start to think you are touched by God. I have always thought that art is worth what the next guy is prepared to pay.” Watching the hyper-inflation that has been the hallmark of the modern art market in recent years, largely driven by these now-floundering big auction sales, it’s quite a pleasure indeed to see the unrealistic top of the blue-chip art world lopped off as the world economy staggers to find its legs beneath crippling debt and stagnating development. It’s exactly this kind of hyper speculation that killed the economy at large and has brought a legion of younger, less established artists to new and dangerous levels of financial success in the span of a few years—the term “street art” certainly comes to mind—that will surely crash back to ground as they find no takers in the future art market for their work at prices that were unrealistic to begin with. Of course, like all markets, art sales are driven by fear and prices remain at the mercy of the global psychology. Real collectors with real money and a bit of common sense will of course be picking up incredible and previously untouchable art that will doubtlessly come onto the secondary market in droves throughout 2009 as the economy hits rock bottom and day traders realize it’s either the Richard Prince or the house and start letting the treasures go one by one. Of course, that’s not to say that all art worth less—or, more accurately, not selling—today has “lost” its value. Like the real estate market, art bought at reasonable prices today will no doubt again realize enormous values as the economic crisis lessens in the coming years and we begin the whole vicious cycle anew. The morals of the story? Be smart; only buy what you like; know that if it seems too expensive, it definitely is; never believe the hype; and treat art bought as an “investment” with the same caution you’d buy a stock. In the meantime, one thing’s for sure: 2009 is gonna be a great year to be an art collector. Read more about the subject HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE…
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