Friday 18th November 2016Can Trump Be Good for the Art World? Or....
It's probably fair to say that most artists generally find themselves on the more socially progressive side of the political spectrum. Facism, as an extreme of the right wing, is rarely the patron saint of the arts. Of course, extremes in any direction rarely appreciate the arts enough to cultivate them in a way that lets them thrive, but surely the election of Donald Trump has most artists stunned, outraged, or just downright depressed.
Except not every part of the art world is depressed about it, apparently - the auction houses are excited by the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. It's moments like this that we reflect on why we stopped discussing the latest record-breaking sale from an auction house, and decided to focus more on living artists and their current works: in general, once art hits the auction house, it doesn't really have much to do with art anymore.
Instead, it's really nothing more than another part of an investment portfolio - which is surely at least partly why auction houses are the only part of the art world excited by the prospect of a Trump presidency. He's a billionaire, after all, and has enough capital to fill a whole bunch of gaudy gold frames.
"I think there's been a fairly good feeling among the art collectors this week," said Tad Smith, director of Sotheby's auction house in New York City, during an interview with CNBC. "There's just a lot of very wealthy people from all types of countries... and they have a lot of capital to deploy."
"Everywhere I go around the world, and really for almost 15 or 16 months, we've had a large group of buyers that have plenty of money to spend and they want to buy things. The trouble particularly in the last six to 12 months has been there hasn't been enough that they were offering."
"As long as we have a good, confident week, and I think we're going to do that, we're going to have more offered in the spring. That will free up the buyers. It's convincing those sellers that the buyers are there — that's the big opportunity."
Straight from the horse's mouth: it's not really about the art, it's about the extremely wealthy patrons who show up for Donald Trump's election that matter to them.
Posted on November 18th 2016 on 11:46pm
Friday 13th June 2014Auction House Competition
The art world is famous for price tags as lofty as the masterpieces they represent. Staggering prices are commanded every time a famous work changes hands, and even the members of the public who aren't the target market are fascinated by the eye-popping sums. In the past, however, this type of big ticket sale has always been the province of the auction house; the Sotheby's, the Christie's, and occasionally a private sale brokered by a top-tier gallery. However, at the latest art fair in Basel (which we discussed previously in our post about the best cities for art lovers), an incredible challenge to the supremacy of the auction house has appeared.
New York is unquestionably the American centre for art auctions (and arguably the world centre as well, though doubtless many in London would disagree), and during May of this year, $2.2 billion USD worth of art sales took place during the course of two weeks. Unquestionably an impressive figure, but the Art Basel fair that just finished up recently featured 285 galleries and dealers selling a whopping $4 billion USD worth of art. In fact, on the very first day of the fair alone, over $55 million dollars worth of sales had been made - by only 11 galleries.
A piece by Jeff Koons, the subject of one of our recent artist spotlights, was sold for $5 million, but the true sales crown belonged to a famous piece by famed Pop Art paragon Andy Warhol, a pink-tinted self-portrait of the artist wearing his infamously iconic fright wig which sold for a whopping $32 million USD, which equals the record price ever achieved at an auction house for a Warhol self-portrait.
So what does this really mean for the auction house world paradigm? In the long run, probably not a great deal. Art sales are a very unique type of commerce, and the auction house is unlikely to be completely replaced by the art fair, but it will definitely have to step aside to make room. There is little doubt that the snobbery traditionally associated with the auction house will push some away, but at the same time, it provides a different experience to the mad rush of the art fair. Even though digital downloads essentially killed the record store, a comparable situation isn't likely to occur in the art world. Art fairs and auction houses may be selling the same calibre of piece, but the experiences they offer are sufficiently different - and the demand for artwork so voracious - that they will likely co-exist for a long time to come yet.
Posted on June 13th 2014 on 05:05pm