Robert Frank writes the Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report blog. He also wrote an earlier story on the idea that auction houses–or, at least, Sotheby’s–are giving clients longer payment terms because there is serious weakness in the art market. That may be so. But just before this recent round of sales in New York, he wrote a blog post outlining his argument that art market was already in a stealth correction.
Most of the argument is simply suggesting that the auction houses are manipulating the market to mask price weakness. The financial market corollary is the argument that oil prices are being driven by speculators. It’s possible but fails the simplicity test.
The most substantial piece of his post is the observation that second-tier paintings are not in demand. This certainly seems to be true but it isn’t clear how a shift in taste constitutes a correction. In all cultural production, we see winner-take-all markets. Why this should be true in music and movies but not in art, Frank doesn’t explain.