NEWS///MIAMI///HEAD OF ART BASEL PREDICTS DIRE YEAR FOR THE ART FAIR

December 4, 2008  |  art, Art & Commerce, Art Basel, Miami, News

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The doormat at this year's Art Basel Miami seems errily appropriate...

With the seventh annual installment of the reliably trashy and hedonistic art extravaganza known as ART BASEL set to officially kick off tomorrow, the economic crisis at large is bound to be the event's show-stealer, inevitably drawing attention away from the naked late nite revelry and spending orgies of years past. Speaking to German news source SPIEGEL this week, MARC SPIEGLER, one of the fair's two heads predicted, "most galleries will probably not break any records this year." The report went on to detail the grim reality facing the fair's thousands of international dealers this year as art movers try to make numbers in a time of global economic uncertainty. READ ON:

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This year the art gangsters in Miami will be replaced by people who actually have money—real gangsters...

Excerpts from:
"Same Artists, Same Collectors, Less Champagne"
By Ulrike Knöfel and Joachim Kronsbein, Spiegel Online

"This market has grown out of the economic reality of the last two years," says Iwan Wirth, 38, who ranks as Europe's most important gallerist and lives in London and Zürich. But now the art market will learn what financial power really means. "The market will be changed by the world economic crisis," predicts Wirth. The ecstasy is cooling off. The boom times are over.

In no other industry do people expend so much energy just to spread optimism. So it comes as almost like a confession of desperation when the American Marc Spiegler, one of the two heads of "Art Basel", announces: "Most galleries will probably not break any records this year." He also lets comments slip out like "Prices have gotten more realistic again," or, "The time for speculators has passed." The buyers from the so-called emerging markets—from India, the Middle East, and China—have now disappeared, says Wirth.

And New York sets the tone for Miami. Star auctioneer Tobias Meyer, the most important man at Sotheby’s, ought to know: "the feverish pace of art-buying is done." The very top segment of the market doesn't exist anymore.

One gallerist who is a symbol of the boom of the last 10 years is Gerd Harry Lybke, the famous co-founder of the "New Leipzig School." He represents Neo Rauch, a Leipzig painter whose pieces will sell well even in bad times—something which allows Lybke to indulge in a certain realism. He fears that Miami "could turn into a debacle for many people. Whoever depends on it to earn money has a problem. Many would rather spare themselves the expense, but a cancellation would be like admitting to yourself and your mother that you haven't made it." Collectors, especially American ones, are holding back, and not just because money is running short: "it just looks uncool to go on a big shopping spree in these times."

For many sellers, Miami could mark the beginning of the end. Lybke, at any rate, predicts that many galleries will die out. Many will ride it out for another year, he says: "then it will be drastic, there will be big cuts in Germany and worldwide." Many of Lybke's colleagues also forecast that some 30 to 40 percent of galleries will soon close up shop.

The gallerist Iwan Wirth recalls the crash of 1991. Back then he was new to the business and managed to acquire some of his best works. Now, 17 years later, new opportunities have arisen: "The current art market situation opens up amazing chances. We bought some major works during fall auctions in New York." And Miami? "The show in Miami will be the litmus test. As the speculators hold back, the art show will be a dream for serious collectors and they won't let the opportunity pass them by." He adds that a "buyers market" has developed overnight.

But when the prices fall, it doesn't mean that content and idealism automatically reclaim centre stage—many of the cost saving measures will impact the wrong people, perhaps especially the institutions that are the most ambitious, the sponsors who take the biggest risks, and the artists who are the most daring.

There is much at stake. And not just money.

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