Now that the Fall is here it’s time for the big New York auction season. Already we have the amazing sale of a Giacometti “Chariot” sculpture at $101 million and a Van Gogh painting titled “Still Life, Vase With Daisies and Poppies” which commanded $82.5 million. Once again the art world is echoing with questions such as “could you trade the bronze for $101 million worth of anything else?” “Will the value hold or increase if it is sold again?”
A really disturbing phenomenon is the sale of contemporary artworks by living artists, many of whom do not actually create the piece being sold but have assistants and workshops do it. Remember, Andy Warhol actually called his studio “The Factory”.
How can a Jeff Koons orange-tinted stainless steel “Balloon Dog” sell for $58 million in 2013? Jeff, though a nice guy who treats his son well, did not make the piece.
In Artful Dodgers: Fraud and a Foolishness in the Art Market I have a discussion of this and point out the importance of branded artists selling at branded venues and the ways that the market players accomplish this branding. My final word is one that always gets a good reaction at book signings and other lectures. I ask the audience to think of the word “CONTEMPORARY” and point out that it is 75% “temporary” and 25% “con”.
No, these sales do not represent reality anywhere outside the sales rooms where people with unimaginable amounts of cash, a desire for attention and prestige and a certainty that this is a last chance situation, raise their paddles, call in their bids or have prearranged purchasing instructions. It’s a pissing contest, folks.
You can order a signed and dedicated copy of the book which is taking the art world by storm at http://www.artfuldodgers.us and even request the dedication you want me to write in your copy. unfortunately, I have to limit the number of times I write “I couldn’t have done it without you.”