Sarah Thornton Sums Up the Frieze Fair
Despite higher sales totals in early 2008, many insiders feel that the market hit its real peak back in May-June 2007, just before the sub-prime crisis struck. In the months since, the market has been thinner and weaker, but it has also been punctuated by dazzlingly expensive sales to Arab royalty and Russian oligarchs buying name artists at devil-may-care prices.
An end to the mania for Hirst:
rumour has it that the Russians have not bought any significant contemporary work since Damien Hirst’s [ . . . ] sale at Sotheby’s last month. [ . . . ] in the past few weeks, many dealers who never trade in Hirsts report being offered Hirst works from collectors who either no longer feel there is much kudos in owning work by the artist or are “distress selling” to cover losses in other fields.
The Frieze Art Fair was a cheerier event, principally because the primary market – galleries representing artists and selling straight out of the studio – is at present healthier than the secondary or resale market for art. As the fair’s co-director Matthew Slotover puts it: “Collectors who buy art on the primary market are interested in art, whereas the secondary market is dominated by people whose primary purpose is to make money.”
So what happens next?
Joel Wachs, president of the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, was philosophical: “People who bought art for the wrong reasons better get used to looking at it.”
Bye Bye to Bling for Billionaires (New Statesman)