There’s so much assumption in the art market that powerful collectors and dealers somehow control an artist’s market, it is worth looking at an extreme and absurd example of how and why that is rarely the case. Most attempts to corner a market end very badly for the manipulator. Without real demand, market manipulation becomes its own condign punishment as this bizarre story of a “performance artist” who wants to turn an obscure child’s toy into the next art commodity, according to the BBC.
The man’s name is Jamie Moakes and he is buying up all the Ram Man action figures he can find on the hopes that he can make a dent in the 2 million-item market. Professor Eric Smith explains why the idea is so fraught:
“The tradition of cornering the market is to get sufficient control of the market and get hold of enough of it to manipulate the price. Once the price gets high you can sell high,” adds Prof Smith. […]
There is a second plank of Jamie’s plan to push up the price of Ram Man. He is a performance artist, and has a show where he tries to convince people that Ram Man is the new gold.
He then sells one of the toys from his collection at the end.
It may seem like a good idea, but Prof Smith says this may be his second mistake.
“He’s publicly announcing that he’s trying to corner the market. If you were trying to corner the market you would want to buy slowly and carefully.” […]
“The trick though is once you’ve actually controlled all of this supply, you’ve got to start selling it in order to make a profit.”
Once you own all the Ram Man action figures in the world, who’s left to buy them from you?