Portfolio Tries to Write a Story on the Hirst Auction and the Economy
It’s not clear why Portfolio would expect an auction that was planned, promoted and organized over several months–and took place during the opening hours of financial crisis that is larger than was imagined on monday–would fall apart overnight.
“Sometimes calamitous events can effect auctions, but in this case the worst news was in the U.S. and the sale was in England,” said Kimball Higgs, senior vice president of Gurr Johns, an art appraiser and consultant in New York. “Obviously the buyers were not nervous enough to discourage activity.” [ . . . ]
“This looks like a repeat of 20 years ago, when global markets crashed and the art market kept chugging along for another year and then it crashed,” says Todd Levin, director of the Levin Art Group in New York. “I’ve seen this before—people talk about there being all this global money, that’s there’s so much more wealth now—but I think that’s nonsense. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But the story does precious little to try to understand the connection between the Hirst sale and the world economy. More to the point, it avoids the central question of whether the Hirst sale is representative of the art market itself–it most likely is not–or what the art market might look like in the coming months and years as the evaporation of credit begins to have real consequences. The Russian stock market was closed again today. Does that effect the ability of the Russian buyers to pay for their Hirst sale purchases? (Again, probably not.)
But the least credible [NB: see the comments for Levin’s response: he’s right that the sale results do vindicate his point of view.] part of the Portfolio story is Todd Levin’s conspiracy quote that ends the piece. Levin is an art advisor who is vocal in his disdain for the market aspect of the art market. There’s nothing wrong with that. And Levin seems to live by his follows those principles as an art adviser–with the emphasis on art. But he gives the organizers of the sale and Hirst too much credit when he posits a seamless sale assembled by a marketing plan with all risk engineered out of the enterprise [NB: Again, see comments]:
“It was an unusual situation, where the artist could sit down with the auction house before the work was even made—with zero transparency and 100 percent control—and orchestrate exactly how many works, of what kinds, and in what price ranges the market could bear,” Levin says. “There is simply no way that Sotheby’s would get themselves involved in such a massively epic opportunity for failure without calculating for every last possibility.”
Art Hangs On (Portfolio)