General
Marion Maneker0March 02, 2009

Post-YSL Euphoria? Not a Chance.

Paris is taking some sort of solace in the afterglow of the YSL sale. But even there, no one believes the art market is divorced from the depressed economy, according to Agence France Presse whose report showed up in Khaleej Times Online:

With the economy in the doldrums, the runaway success of this week’s Yves Saint Laurent auction is unlikely to cause a sea change on the flagging art market, but experts believe it can boost investment in art.

A Christie’s competitor, who asked not to be named, said it would help people “understand that art is a good long-term investment, that works such as these turn a profit over 20 or 30 years, and that buying art is also buying pieces you can live with and enjoy, just as Berge and Saint Laurent did.”

New York dealer John Herring, who bought a work worth over 200,000 euros, told AFP he was cheered to see “that art is still selling.” [ . . . ]

“I think this auction may give people confidence that art is still a commodity that people are ready to pay for,” he said. [ . . . ]

“There’s still lots of money around but the psychology is the problem. Here you can see people buying, and that gives confidence.”

French auctioneer Dominique Ribeyre was of the same opinion. “This sale is comforting,” he said. “The big dealers are here along with collectors who have money.”

Seeing works purchased by the YSL/Berge couple decades earlier fly through the roof showed that “art is a safe investment. Someone who bought an oil for 30 million euros did not make a bad deal, and definitely not as bad as investing in financial products.”

Bucking the credit crunch, the sale exceeded expectations and revived French dreams of seeing Paris recover its place as a major global art market capital.

While the French are being sober and looking for siliver linings, the Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report takes this unfounded swipe at the art market:

Most of the art boom in recent years was fueled by the sale of middling, commodity-like, contemporary art with little or no provenance. The Yves Saint Laurent collection is the opposite: extremely rare and once-in-a-lifetime pieces owned by one of the world’s most glamorous and expert collectors.

It does mean, however, that the wealthy are still willing to spend on art — as long as it is high quality and rare. Just don’t expect it to happen often.

It’s not quite clear whether Damien Hirst is the target of this characterization or just simple ignorance. For all of the interest in Hirst, Koons, Prince and other lesser known artists at auction, the bulk of the big numbers in Contemporary art were for artists like Rotko, Bacon and Warhol who have pretty good provenance. Remember the Rothko that briefly held the record for most valuable work of Contemporary art and achieved that on the strength of David Rockefeller’s provenance? Fontana, Klein and even Basquiat hardly fit that throwaway definition either. Nonetheless, while the premise is weak, the WSJ’s conclusion is sound.

Bumper YSL Sale Shows Art Can Be As Good As Gold (AFP/Khaleej Times)

Sold: The $28 Million Chair (WSJ/Weatlh Report)