Blake Gopnik: Pop Goes the Art Bubble
The rich keep spending millions and driving up prices. But what happens when the bubble bursts?
What sound does a bubble make just before it bursts? We heard it last week at the Art Basel fair in Miami, where the rich flock to stock up on art each December. A Richard Prince “nurse,” hung amid Picassos and Miros, selling for $6.5 million; a Damien Hirst “medicine cabinet” priced at $4 million; Julie Mehretu squiggles, barely a decade old, for $2.6 million—all for sale at Art Basel, and all with prices so high they are bound to crash-land.
But there were surer, subtler signs of the bubble than those: paintings by Raymond Parker—that were nowhere in sight; carvings by Mary Frank, also not for sale anywhere; bronzes by David Slivka, unrepresented in any dealer’s booth. Fifty years ago, in the pages of Art News magazine, these were billed as figures “of unusual promise and achievement.” Today a huge Parker canvas sets his auction record at $60,000 (compared to $34 million for Jeff Koons), while works by Frank barely break $10,000, and a lone Slivka sculpture on the market goes for a 10th of that.
“Ernie Trova was the most famous artist in the world,” says New York dealer Marc Glimcher, “and Ernie Trova was us”—“us” being the influential Pace Gallery founded by his parents, and Trova being an utterly forgotten 1960s sculptor whose sales were once so brisk they paid for Glimcher’s education. “Those bubbles burst—they’re bursting now,” says the dealer. He points out that there’s not a soul who’d say we’re at a high point in artistic creation, even as the market for art does better than ever.
Maybe we should expect obscene price tags when it comes to the proven icons of art history: who can say if The Scream by Munch was overpriced or not when it sold for $120 million last May, or whether it made sense when The Card Players by Cézanne sold for twice that in 2011? But when prices go nuts for artists whose reputations are still in play, trouble is sure to be looming....MOREHT: Abnormal Returns
The Physical Cliff
Let's get physical, physical...
From The Art Newspaper:
Taxing times mean there could be trouble ahead...
…but art dealers found a silver lining to the US fiscal cliffhanger as Art Basel Miami Beach opened to invited guests
As throngs of glamorous VIPs crowded into the Miami Beach Convention Center yesterday for the opening of Art Basel Miami Beach, the outside world was preoccupied by more practical concerns. The prospect of the so-called “fiscal cliff”—a raft of tax increases and budget cuts due to be implemented in the US in January (see box, p2)—is a prevailing uncertainty, and there are signs that the world inside the art fair is more aware of external economic events than usual.....MORE